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I.N.V.E.S.T. Wisely and Watch Your Business Grow

By Rikki Harris | June 4, 2024
I.N.V.E.S.T. Wisely and Watch Your Business Grow

In early 2018, I was five years into my role as CEO of TN Voices, a non-profit mental health organization. When I started, we had a $2 million-plus budget, and there were planned changes that would cause a loss of revenue. By 2018, we were holding steady, weathering the storm of change and strategizing toward new opportunities and programs. I had conquered many challenges, achieved our goals, and hit my five-year anniversary with the company. I was then granted the opportunity to take a paid sabbatical from my daily duties and dive deep into my goals and needs for leadership as well as organizational growth and development.

The sabbatical experience was not only life-changing; it was game-changing for our organization. In summary, I broke my sabbatical work into five parts and I focused on my physical, mental, social, and spiritual health, as well as leadership (although I would argue that working on the four parts of myself was, in fact, working on my leadership). What happened after I returned from that ten-week journey into self-care and focus on leadership was significant and profound for the organization and for me.

In the years after the sabbatical from 2019 to present day, we went from $2 million in revenue to $22 million. This increase meant one thing: thousands more people were getting the mental health services they needed, and this was the harvest from sowing that seed that allowed me to take the journey in my self care and have time to think, develop, and grow. 

One of the practices I adopted from that experience was an annual vision board exercise where I thoughtfully put my goals down and made a commitment to meet those goals for myself, my family, and my staff. In this exercise, I categorize my goals into those same five quadrants: physical, mental, spiritual, social/family, and leadership. I target three to five goals in each quadrant. After I review all of the goals I have chosen, I look for a theme across all aspects of my life (family, career, leadership, and self), and then I choose a word that encompasses all my goals.

In 2023, I chose the word “invest.” What I didn’t know at the time was how much that word would stay with me as I lead and coach my team and my mentees. To me, “invest” includes investing in yourself, your team, your ideas and goals, and your personal relationships. When I started to invest in my team and our ideas, I applied a simple acrostic to help keep my commitment to INVEST right in front of me. This approach especially helped me as I led our organization through exponential growth, took calculated risks, and engaged in courageous innovation.

A quick word: before you dive in and practice INVESTing, make sure you are working with a team that can tolerate a certain level of risk. I recommend using an assessment such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder to discover the strengths among your team. This step will help you understand who can tolerate risks, strategy, and innovation that may lead to failure, and who requires courage to move through failure that propels the organization forward.

Below are the components of INVEST:


As a good leader should, I prepare before each meeting not just to make use of the time, but also to also give value and time to the thinking that needs to occur when making decisions. It was at the end of a weekly team meeting when I had finished sharing what I wanted the team to do, that a senior member who typically followed my lead said, “I think we should do it differently.”

Wait, what?

I wanted to do what I would have done in the past – restate my points, explain how much thinking about I had already done, justify my position, and persuade for the outcome I wanted. After hearing the team members’ feedback, I decided to allow the idea to lead and I vetoed my own plan. Part of me was skeptical of the idea, but intuitively, it felt right to give the idea a chance. And you guessed it – it all worked out fine!

If you are a really decisive and intuitive leader like me, you are probably good at shooting down an idea that you think won’t work. But just push pause, and listen fully before you say no.

The ideas shared by your team may not work, but they may lead the team’s thinking to better ideas. So let those ideas brew and bubble up. Allowing idea sharing also communicates how much you value your team’s thoughts.

I am a visionary, and sometimes I have already envisioned the future five years ahead, but my team has taken me on some great detours from that vision that grew us in ways I didn’t think they would. Calculate the risks and consider letting a team member go with an idea that wasn’t necessarily in your vision, but would align if it worked.


Your focus has to be on getting your business to the next level. How do you envision your company, department, or team at the next level? Dream about it and linger in your thoughts about what could be. It may be growth in sales, growth in revenue, growth in footprint, or it could be stronger public relations, better communications platforms, and more services delivered. Whatever it is, do not miss this step. Define what the next level looks like for you when you set your goals and incorporate steps to get you there. If you think your dreams are too big, it is likely they really aren’t big enough. Shoot for the moon! Sometimes we aim for goals we know we can achieve because we don’t like to underperform or fail. Let that go. I learned the bigger I dreamed, the bigger my team’s dreams expanded.  Guess what? They don’t like to fail either, so they got sharper and worked with more focus. I would challenge you also to think about what the next level looks like for your staff. How can you help them level up? Lastly, consider how you can level up their experience as employees in your business. Your employees are your best recruiting tool; invest in them. 


Adopt your leadership values and stick to them. These are the values I invest in regularly:

  • Growth. Think about John Maxwell’s Law of the Lid: ​leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. If you want to raise the lid, you must be willing to learn, so you must invest in your growth. Coaching, reading leadership books, writing your own messages about leadership, attending conferences, whatever it takes — invest in learning and growing as a leader.
  • Self-care. When you prioritize self-care, it not only benefits your team, but also gives them permission to follow your lead and practice their own self-care. Do not rule out your mental health care if you need help. Over my 20-plus years in leadership roles, I have engaged in therapy at least five times for brief periods to work through anxiety, stress, and even past issues that have the potential to limit me from flourishing as a leader.
  • Staff support and succession planning. Value your staff over your bottom line; your business won’t survive without them. Remember, great leaders create leaders, so invest in them too.


Place well-experienced people around you. Wise leaders surround themselves with people who have expertise and talents that they do not. You should be asking your team, “What expertise or experience are we lacking as a group?” and then finding the people who balance your business’ needs.

Another approach to this would be to ask your current staff what their hopes and dreams are for their career. You may have a staff that is willing to go get the experience you need to fill your gap. Consider if paying for training, education, or consultation for existing staff is the right investment to get the experience you need to reach your goals.


Teach them self-care, give them permission to practice it, and then offer some supportive tools. Invest time and effort in creating a company culture that supports mental health. Consider these strategies:

  • Make it clear that team members don’t need to explain why they are taking time off. If they have the PTO, just let them use it, no questions asked.
  • Have a mental health day that your staff can use for self-care practices.
  • Offer opportunities to engage in vision board activities.
  • Teach your staff how to create a self-care plan. Support their plan by checking in a few times a year to see how they are doing with it, or create service awards for loyalty that incorporate self-care activities.

Any investment you make into staff’s mental and physical wellbeing has an incredible return on investment not just in retention, but also in innovation and excellence. A healthy staff allows for their best thinking and energy and often makes them ambassadors for your brand, which impacts recruitment.


Invest in tools that will make your business efficient and buy back some of your team’s time.

I run a non-profit. It is easy to believe we cannot afford certain tools. But in many cases, we cannot afford not to have those tools! It just takes a little extra discipline, a little more planning, and a solid financial strategy.

Pick tools that make sense for the business, and don’t be sold on something that won’t have a long-term impact. Coaching, training, certifications, organizational tools, communication plans, and IT are all areas that are worth investing in the right tool.  Doing so will help your business in the long term. Ask your team to weigh in on what tools would make the work sustainable and efficient and have a long-term impact on your vision. 

INVEST in your ideas and your team and stay committed to the plan. Consistency is required if you choose to make investments of this nature. You cannot measure the effectiveness of these investments without time.  If you invest in growing leaders in your team, you will need years – you cannot fast-track leadership development. On the other hand, if you try a tool and your team tells you they don’t like it, don’t force it – be open to what your team wants and needs. 

If you make these investments, you will have to hire more people to manage your company’s growth. It is a guaranteed ROI when you do the work to INVEST. My team grew our revenue as I mentioned, which means we grew our reach and we grew our staff.  From 2014 to today, we grew from a staff of 21 to 155 and counting.  We expected and planned for growth and because we invested in ideas, what was next, values, experience, support, and tools, we have seen a positive response from our staff through our staff surveys.  We recently earned a top 25% badge from our organization surveys in three areas of leadership as well as innovation, meaningful work, strong values, work life balance, and open mindedness. The investments seem to be paying off for everyone and it all began when I decided to invest in myself as a leader and grow from there.

Looking for more strategic personal and professional growth tips?

Investing in yourself and your team yields practical, radical growth – hear more stories from seasoned leaders and discover more powerful insights by subscribing to the Maxwell Leadership blog.

Rikki Harris is the Chief Executive Officer for TN Voices. Rikki holds a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and a Master’s in Christian Education. Having served TN Voices since 2011, she has a background in Non-Profit leadership, Mental Health, Juvenile Justice, Substance Use, Advocacy, Marketing, Business Development, Strategy, and Fundraising.  She has won awards in TN and Texas for her roles as a leader, advocate, and collaborator. In 2020 she was featured in the From Languishing to Flourishing film produced by TN Voices as well as a feature in The Viewpoint with Dennis Quaid where she discussed the importance of mental health and the work of TN Voices. She co-hosts and produces the “CAN+DID” podcast. She is a four-time finalist for Nashville Emerging Leader Award, nominated top three for Center for Non-Profit Management’s CEO of the year, and given a Healthy Hero award from Amerigroup TN. She has led TN Voices through significant growth and expansion. When not working, Rikki enjoys spending time with her husband of 20+ years and their two daughters, volunteering at her church, and collecting sneakers. She also loves old cars, snow cones, and the ocean!

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