Get All Access for $5/mo

Don't Overlook the Most Important Investment You Can Make What will give you the biggest ROI? Investing in your people.

By Eli Crane Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Most people that know me well understand that I am really not great at anything in business. I am absolutely horrible with technology and accounting. I don't have a fancy MBA, and I'm totally confused by Snapchat and why it is so relevant to younger generations. My desk often looks like I'm hosting a garage sale, and my assistant, Amee, constantly has to remind what I have scheduled for the day and what else I have volunteered myself for. I cannot weld or program any of the large and expensive machines I own.

Related: 4 Steps to Building a Successful Team

I could go on and on and on some more about the things that I am not good at and have tried and failed miserably to accomplish. I do not write these things because I'm hoping to win a humbleness or self-exposure award. In spite of all of my major short comings, I was still able to build a multimillion-dollar company because I was good at one thing: building a team. Your team is not just the people you employ, though they are very important. Your team is also your friends, family and anyone else that falls into your support group.

As entrepreneurs, we are constantly trying to figure out where to get our biggest return on investment or ROI. We pump more time and money into Facebook ads or new product development. We spend hours reading over financial documents to find the underperformers and see the big picture. Some of us read every business book and journal we can get our hands on. We invest in new tech and machinery to get the job done better, faster and cheaper. With all of this thought, testing and research, most of us still fail to see the best ROI out there. It is people. They always have been and they always will be.

Related: Filmmaker Ken Burns Explains How to Build a Team You'd Trust in Battle

You see, "they" know how to fix it. They know someone who can make that key introduction. They actually just experienced the same situation so they can shed some light on your problem. They are strong where you are weak. They can cover for you so you can get some rest. Sometimes all you need is someone to lend an ear and they have two. It is important to note that they are usually not free, but if you invest in them they will become your biggest asset.

Investing in people doesn't always mean paying them. Often it means investing quality time with them. People don't care about how much you know or can pay them until they know how much you care. People will often follow you into a hail of gunfire or climb mountains on your behalf if they know that you genuinely care about them. It is for this reason that I often ignore my to-do list when a friend or associate drops in so I can show them with my actions that they are important to me.

Related: This Innovation Expert Tells You How to Develop Strong Teams

I learned how to build relationships as a kid from watching my parents interact with others and hearing them recite the "golden rule" for me from Matthew 7:12: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I also learned it from my early training in the military while trying to become one of our nation's finest, a Navy SEAL. Our instructors taught us from Day One how insignificant we were by ourselves on the battlefield by making sure we were always accompanied by a fellow classmate or "swim buddy" at our side.

At the end of the day, business is not some popularity contest with "he who has the most friends is the winner." What I am saying is that when you are considering what to invest in during the coming weeks, month or year, do yourself a big favor and don't forget to spend some quality time with the people in your life. Get to know what makes them tick, find out what they are dealing with and ask them if you can help them out in anyway. Not only will you feel good about yourself but you just might realize the ROI that always come from investing in people.

Related Video: You Don't Need to Be a Master Fundraiser or Networker to Be Successful. You Just Need to Find the Right Team.

Eli Crane

CEO, Bottle Breacher

A former Navy SEAL and entrepreneur, Eli Crane started his multimillion-dollar company Bottle Breacher in his garage turning 50-caliber shells into bottle openers. He is a frequent media guest and public speaker nationwide supporting the natural symmetry of military service and entrepreneurism.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.


This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.


Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.