There’s an old saying that I never really understood until recently. I’ve always heard of people being “penny wise and pound foolish.” And while I understood the basic message there, the impact of it was never clearer than when I started looking at in in the context another widely accepted and mostly misinterpreted concept of the cost of doing business.
Most often, when we talk about the cost of doing business, we speak of rent, insurance, computers, paper, and pens. Tangible easily calculated costs. However, we mostly overlook the most important cost . . . wasted time.
Have you ever heard a coworker complaining about how difficult it is to acquire a new pen or get a notebook for instance. Maybe it’s the cost of a soda in the breakroom, or difficulty getting a day off. If you think hard enough, I guarantee you can think of at least five such examples. Each one more ridiculous than the next.
Now think about how many other people that person tells that same story to. Think about how many times those people retell the story or participate in the telling of the story to someone else. I think you get the picture now.
Each of those people and the time they spent bitching and moaning about how corporate things are or how stingy the company may be has now become the true cost of doing business. You could easily have purchased 50 boxes of the best pens at Staples for the amount of productivity lost as a result.
I can hear the counter arguments already. Yes, I know spending must be constrained. Yes, I know people must have limits. Yes, I know. But what most people fail to realize, is you can’t easily stop the train once it has started. It’s much easier to prevent the train from ever getting started.
Now don’t get me wrong. This is not a license to make a run on pens and notebooks, but merely a friendly reminder to think of the consequences of your actions before you react. People (at least the people who would spend time agonizing over a pen) need validation in some form or another. So either you give it to them in the form of “yes I understand your need for a pen” or they’ll suck the life out of your company trying to find it from everyone else.