The phrase “Time is money” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin and generally we accept that in business life. Productivity is a key driver across most, if not all, industry sectors. Of course time is infinitely more valuable than money however and this is often ignored owing to the pressures we put upon ourselves.
The premise of time as currency was developed in a film that starred Justin Timberlake in 2011. Babies were born with a time allowance of 25 years and this appeared as an illuminated digital counter on their forearm. When that time was running out they could trade labour for additional time and use excess time to buy goods and services. A meal in a restaurant might cost a month, with a generous tip of one week given to the waiter for good service. A car might cost 15 years.
The upside was that nobody aged physically after age 25 and one of the downsides was that “wealthy” people with hundreds of years on their clocks became mentally tired of life. People who were unable to work either “timed out” which was the euphemism for death, or turned to crime. Crime grew up around the theft of time from one person to another which could be done by forcibly touching forearms. People gave time to those they loved, quite literally, by touching arms together.
A very thought-provoking idea don’t you think? If we gave more thought to how we used our time, and if we knew how long we had left to us, we might behave differently. What if a car really did cost 15 years? Maybe it does when you think about the time we have to work in order to buy one. My son worked out when he was young that he had to work for half a day at his holiday job to earn enough for a night out. Time is a currency and it is a finite resource.
Too philosophical for a Monday morning? Let’s bring it back to the real world.
When we cost our goods and services in business, one of the methods used is “Cost plus”, in other words, the cost of time, bought in costs and materials plus a margin for profit. This assumes that enough units will be sold in a period of time to cover all costs and leave a profit. The inexperienced business person may fail to allow for his own time in the costing which can lead to him working for nothing in the early days. I certainly made this mistake myself initially.
For those who are lucky enough to have time left to enjoy life when work has come to an end, time takes on a different meaning. It means freedom, mental space, the ability to choose your true priorities and countless other benefits. It can mean better health and fitness.
That’s not to say that time spent working is not enjoyable – if you love your work it is very satisfying – but surely the purpose of work is to gain time as opposed to just money? What’s the use of amassing wealth if you have no time to enjoy it? Some might say that it’s not about amassing wealth – they are pedalling hard just to stand still – but that is not a good use of time either.
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Have you seen the Steve Jobs film yet? I recommend it. It’s especially meaningful for those of us who have used equipment bearing the iconic Apple brand since the early days but, in addition to that, it’s a study in human relationships and psychology.
The film shows Jobs at his brilliant, visionary best and his antagonistic, insensitive worst. It also illustrates how company boards can be detached from the real values of a business and lack understanding of the sector in which the company operates.
Steve Jobs’ entourage dances around the edges of his moods either challenging or ignoring him depending on their own position and perspective. Jobs is dismissive of the skills of his development team saying that he is “conductor of the orchestra” rather than merely “playing an instrument.” He is a one-man band operating in a corporate environment.
His behaviour is explained by Jobs himself when he tells his daughter that he was “badly made” and there is no doubt that rejection and a lack of parental love affected him very badly. His CEO becomes a pseudo father figure but the relationship very quickly breaks down.
Above all the film left me with admiration for Steve Jobs’ unflinching vision and his passion for his brand. This drove him to barge through obstacles, brushing people’s feelings aside and pushing them beyond their capabilities. Whilst this was extreme and painful to watch, especially when he showed no consideration for his young daughter and for the loveable Wozniak, it rings true in the case of many business leaders. The best brands are built with focus and passion and a committee approach is usually doomed to fail.
There is a middle path but it takes time, a luxury that is not always available.
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