The Importance of Managing Time

We came across the following quote from Peter F. Drucker and it got our wheels turning. When you think about it, we are all in the business of time.

“Effective people know that time is the limiting factor… Time is also a unique resource. One cannot rent, hire, buy or otherwise obtain more time… No matter how high the demand, the supply will not increase. There is no price for it… Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply. Time is totally irreplaceable. Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance. We can substitute capital for human labor. We can use more knowledge or more brawn. But there is no substitute for time… Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time. “

– Peter F. Drucker

The China supply chain is about management of resources, and management is about time. People talk about OPB (other people’s brains) and OPM (other people’s money), but this is about OPT (other people’s time). You hear people say, “Business is about people” and that is true. But be mindful that it is the people who use their time wisely that are considered great.

To get the most of your time, you need to be focused and highly specialized OR you need to tap into people who are experts in a specific discipline you need. An expert in any given field or industry gets things done much faster (and usually better) than a non-expert. And how does one achieve expertise? Well, with practice and time.

What I mean is that you become an expert in anything by learning. Learning requires slow thinking and understanding (see Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow). Most business owners are experts in their own business—they can think lightning fast when confronted with the special problems or opportunities of their field. But despite their ability to think fast in their own areas of expertise, they often think very “slowly” about other aspects of their business. Therefore, the smartest business owners rely on experts in other disciplines to help them with parts of their business. For example, instead of learning about the law or the intricacies of taxes and accounting, they hire lawyers and accountants.

The China supply chain is another example. Companies that import goods from China do so to gain and maintain a competitive edge. Getting cheap and good quality goods allows them to gain market share and maintain a healthy bottom line. But taking advantage of these benefits requires expert management of the entire China supply chain. And this consumes time. Not only that, but, because China has a 12-hour difference, it can consume precious after-work time. Some importers literally work around the clock to manage their China supply chain. Is that a good usage of their time?

Becoming an expert in China sourcing requires training in many disciplines: from language knowledge to cultural awareness; from finding the best factories, to securing quality samples; from setting up a quality assurance program to rigorous quality control. And while companies that import from China are no doubt experts in the product they are sourcing, they are usually not experts in these disciplines. That is why many savvy importers rely on sourcing specialists to give them an edge in supply chain management to save their own time.

In sum, time is money. So it makes sense to hire experts to think fast in areas where you think slow.

How are you investing your time? Do you use OPT? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

By Jocelyn Trigueros

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