Time or Money…Choose One

The past three months have been incredibly busy for us and I’ve been reminded many times of the old saying “you either have time or money…but not both.”  When we’re really busy my time seems to become more and more valuable to me.  I find that in order to get my business done, I have to pay other people to take care of things I might normally do.

At the beginning of the year I felt guilty getting mani/pedis because I had an abundance of time and not a lot of work.  I could do it myself…not the same as the salon, but I did a passable job.  Now that we’re busy, the time I take to sit down and let someone else pamper me is indescribable and so worth it.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but there are days when I get home from work and there’s no way I’m cooking dinner when I can pay someone else to do it!  And housecleaning is one thing I’ve never done.  It’s always been worth it to me to pay someone else so I can buy myself more time.

Now depending on where you are in your life, you may value your time more than your money or visa versa.  When you’re first starting out, you don’t have a lot of money so you invest your time.  As you get older and more successful your purchasing power increases and you spend the extra money to save yourself some time.

I’ve got two different, but very interesting examples of how the time and money question plays into catering.

Years ago when I first started out I was pretty much my whole company.  I was hired to cater a small dinner for a successful attorney in Palo Alto.  She called me the morning of the party to ask about adding an artisan cheese platter to the menu.  No problem, I could take “my time”, head to Oakville Grocery (when it was still in the Stanford Shopping Center)and pick up some tasty cheeses and crusty baguettes.  When I told her she could basically reimburse me for the cost of the cheese and add about $20 for my time she complained and said she’d do it herself.   I was astounded that someone who at that time was billing almost $300 per hour would even think that shopping for cheese would be worth her time.

Last month we catered an event for almost 100 in the home of a long time client.  One of the guests came up to me and said no one there could appreciate more than her the work that must have gone into this party.  Oh I love that … when someone recognizes and relates to the hours and hours we spend pulling together the details.

She explained that she had a small party (about 20 guests) at her home a few days before.  She thought it would be “fun” to do the flowers.  She also thought it would be “fun” to rent the tables, chairs, linen, flatware, china, glasses, etc… herself.  She hired a “caterer” who could handle the whole party by herself.  Here’s what happened…she had to buy the flowers, and the vases, and the ribbon, and some of the tools, and so on.  Not fun.  She had to go to the rental company showroom to make her selections and in spite of spending hours on the order forgot the coffee cups.  Not fun. That oversight wasn’t caught until midway through the meal so her guests had to use paper cups for the coffee service.  Her “caterer” couldn’t keep up with the 20 guests by herself so she ended up in the kitchen helping plate up the meal and serve it.  Not fun. And after the party was over, she had to help clean her own kitchen.  Not fun again.

Now the most interesting thing was when she told me the “real” cost of the party.  It really wasn’t in the flowers, or the rentals or the caterer.  It was the hours she spent away from her architectural practice that cost her dearly.  Literally thousands of dollars.  She took my card and said the next time she even thought of entertaining she’d call because no matter what we charged she’d still come out way ahead taking care of her own business.

So what do you have?  Time or money? Can you make more money tending to your own business?

Having a party catered may seem like it costs more money than if you do it yourself, but all the work is done for you and you don’t have to think about it anymore.  That can mean a lot.

Most of the people I talk to feel that in the case of spending time or spending money, spending money is the best idea. The simple fact is you can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.