The most important thing I learned about running my own business is this. Time is what you sell.
Your time may be worth more or less than another person’s time. You may introduce effort multipliers, sub-contract work to others & take on employees. But time is an absolute. Time is fixed. Once lost it can never be recovered.
I am not the only person on the planet to come to this realisation. All of the great people below arrived at the same conclusion from different starting points and in different contexts. Whether you are Henry Ford driving an assembly line, or Golda Meir establishing national independence, time is an unforgiving juggernaut and you must master time or it will master you.
I am a stickler for punctuality, because punctuality is respect and lateness is rudeness. My time is my commodity. If you waste my time you devalue my commodity and by association you devalue me.
Arrogant people rudely waste the time of those they see as being beneath them. Doctors and Dentists have “waiting rooms”, which are institutionalised time wasting spaces. The message is clear, the doctor, or dentist, is more important than his or her patient. The patient wastes time, the consultant does not.
Senior managers in business are often under time pressure. They make junior managers and staff wait for them. They arrive late to meetings and for appointments. This may satisfy their craving for self-importance, but it is highly wasteful. The time lost by a late senior manager cascades and snowballs from minutes of his time to hours of business time when you take into account all the time wasted by junior staff waiting for him/her.
If you want to increase productivity in your business begin with time. Make time a religious mission. Do not accept lateness. Start meetings on time, wait for no person. End meetings on time. If an issue is unresolved it needs another time slot. Treat everybody’s time with respect, regardless of how junior they are. If you treat their time with respect, they will begin to value it more. They will use it more wisely.
If you have a client who consistently wastes time, then build time into your costings. Make them pay for their waste. Don’t allow them to waste your time for free.
Finally, when you have freed up time, what do you spend it on? My brother Rory once told me (tongue in cheek) “I can’t be bothered spending quality time with my kids. I pawn them off with quantity!” That’s a valuable way to waste time. 🙂
It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste; Henry Ford
Lost time is never found again; Benjamin Franklin
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? John Wooden
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you; Carl Sandburg
Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost a part of your life; Michael LeBoeuf
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst; William Penn
Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it; M. Scott Peck
I must govern the clock, not be governed by it; Golda Meir
Sonnet VII: How soon hath Time, the Subtle Thief of Youth; by John Milton
How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol’n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew’th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth
That I to manhood am arriv’d so near;
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu’th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev’n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav’n:
All is, if I have grace to use it so
As ever in my great Task-Master’s eye.