Monthly Archives: May 2012

Do you know the price of everything – but the value of nothing?

Oscar Wilde
Irish poet and dramatist

It was Oscar Wilde that famously said A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”; but what does it really mean?  On the face of it the answer in today’s busy commercial world is very clear:

  • Firstly it is imperative in business to know the price of everything, in case we should dare fall short of our financial targets or over spend our budgets.
  • With the fading into the background of out dated “Mission Statements” the new genre is “Company Values”. This is no bad thing as it helps to instil meaning and integrity, focussing the employee on the cultural issues of the organisation in which they work.

These though are two separate statements, still standing alone with no connection. Where does knowing “the price of everything” and “the value of nothing” actually come together?

The answer to this rests in all aspects of our lives; across all streams of our lives from home, work, family and friends. To truly understand the phrase one should not look or endeavour to analyse it in two separate halves, because they are, and always have been intrinsically linked; and this is the very essence of Wilde’s point. It is useless to know the £’s price of something and yet not fully understand its true ‘non monetary value’. For example:

Cost vs. Value of Employees – We may know how much an employee costs to employ, but do we truly know what “value” they can bring to the organisation. Whenever I probe organisations on this sensitive and difficult topic, 98% of the time the answer is no. This is shameful on two counts:

  • Firstly research tells us that above all else employees want and more importantly ‘need’ to feel valued. If an employer doesn’t fully understand the true ‘value’ of individuals then the employer – employee relationship will breakdown.
  • Secondly from a motivational and business perspective it is an employer’s responsibility to fully ‘exploit’, in the nicest possible way, an employee’s contribution in order to make business even more successful. If the employee doesn’t feel stretched and challenged then they will leave.

Business Income vs. Value  – In terms of Customer Service and Business Selling it is not just about knowing what the £’s value of what new and existing customers can bring; but equally important is establishing the often unknown ‘non monetary value’.

As a trainer of “Strategic Selling” all too often the comprehension of this message gets sadly overlooked in many businesses today. Sellers and Customer Service Teams do not know:

  • Where their existing or potential customers have worked before
  • What their customer values are
  • What committees or business boards their key clients sit on or attend
  • The broader network of their key clients and who is in that network

These are just some of the errors made in business today by people”who know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

Trisha Proud – Partners in Solutions Ltd


Honesty is the best policy

Benjamin Franklin
“Honesty is the best policy”

It is believed to be Benjamin Franklin who first said that “Honesty is the best policy”.  Franklin was a man who through-out his substantive 84 years demonstrated ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ over and over again. Working with other historic figures such as George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on a committee of five that helped to draft America’s “Declaration of Independence”; although much of the writing is said to be that of Thomas Jefferson’s, a vast amount of the contribution is known to be that of Benjamin Franklin’s.

A man of many parts Benjamin Franklin is an interesting character, who in his early years involved himself in printing and soap making. In his latter years he started concentrating his energies on science, experiments, and inventions. In 1743, he had already invented a heat-efficient stove, called the Franklin stove. Sadly his honesty and uprightness cost him dearly financially because as the stove was invented to help improve society, he refused to take out a patent.

Among Franklin’s other inventions are swim fins and bifocals. In the early 1750’s he turned to the study of electricity. His observations, including his kite experiment which verified the nature of electricity and lightning broughtFranklininternational fame.

As well as thisFranklinis of course also best known for his involvement with the merging American political scene during the time of their declared independence. Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84 years. 20,000 people attended the funeral of the man who was called, “the harmonious human multitude.” One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treatise in 1789. His electric personality, however, still lights the world today as does the immortal phrase “Honesty is the best policy”.

Most of us are taught the value of telling the truth when we are young; but sadly somewhere into adulthood, when we are under pressure at work or at home, when the real competitive world kicks in with all its deceptions and temptations, honesty can sometimes be a far distant memory and hard to find. So what does this mean to us today, in today’s modern society?  Does honesty mean different things to different people? Is there a male vs. female divide?

During the 1960’s and 70’s the female movement certainly did belie that there was indeed a male vs. female divide. Fortunately, for the most part, we have come out of this cycle where if you were a man being honest and forthright you were seen as ‘assertive’; whereas a woman delivering the same message was often seen as ‘aggressive’.

On gender based assertiveness classification, an article written in the New York Times several years ago said that women are expected to be nurturing, but seen as ineffective if they are too feminine.  They are expected to be strong, but tend to be labeled as strident or abrasive when acting as leaders. “Women have to choose between being liked but not respected, or respected but not liked,” Joan Williams author of the book “Unbending Gender” says.  This is a tough choice if all you want is to be open and honest but not judged as ‘aggressive’.

At work, as business owners or employees we are all encourage to be ‘honest’; to provide ‘honest feedback’.  Yet still in the new millennium, for many being able to provide ‘positive, honest comment or feedback’ without causing offence is difficult. It is a sad refection on society; a society that claims to have ‘free speech’ that many believe that giving any form of ‘honest comment’ may damage their relationships or may cause offence. Is this not diluting their integrity, the opposite of honesty in fact?

Most people do still believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’. That said, all too often we see many things around us which are not honest. Sadly some people are inherently dishonest, either because that is what they have been taught; or equally as bad, because the culture of their organisation encourages them to be dishonest. Some may believe that dishonesty may shine from time to time; it may even momentarily earn money and power. But experience has certainly taught me that this is generally for only a short time.

Honesty is courageous, dishonesty is cowardly. I truly believe that honesty always wins the day. It is said that it takes a hundred lies to hide one act of dishonesty. Therefore honesty surely has to be the best policy.

The great Benjamin Franklin also said:

  • A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
  • An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
  • Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one
  • A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.

Trisha Proud  – Partners in Solutions Ltd

Elephant in the room

Deal with your ‘elephant in the room’

One of the most poignant stories I have of dealing with “the elephant in the room” is not business related, but one that really demonstrates that if you can cling onto your integrity, in the face of even the deepest adversity, then out of something bad will come something good.

The story relates to a girlfriend of mine who had just come through an exceptionally acrimonious divorce. Just days after the final divorce hearing, and after three years of intensive marketing of her martial home, she received an offer on her house She was delighted not only because it would signal the end of an unpleasant era in her life, but also because sh e simply could not afford to keep the house, which was already under threat of repossession.

With renewed vigor she contacted her solicitor who promptly told her that as attractive as the buyers offer was, that she was unable to sell her home without the potential of a challenge from her ex-husband, as the divorce settlement had been based on her remaining in the former marital home with her children. This, her solicitor informed her, she would be obliged to do for a minimum of six months to avert such a challenge. She was beside herself with the worry and the thought of losing her buyer after three years of trying to sell her house in a depressed and falling market. At this point my friend sought my advice.

My advice to her was that was to deal with “the elephant in the room”, she was more than likely going to lose her buyer anyway, and so why lie about the situation I told her. I suggested that she contact her buyer and invite them over for tea and a chat. She asked me to join her.  On behalf of my distraught friend I explained the situation to the intrigued buyers, who, as I unravelled the story started to smile. They were extremely sympathetic.  As the conversation evolved it transpired they were buying my friend’s house as their first home together. They too had been through divorces and said that they ‘understood the awful procedural processes’ and the limitations that individual settlements can place on divorcees.

Then, completely unexpectedly the dealing with “the elephant in the room” and its honesty pay-back was delivered!  The woman said that she really wanted the house. The man took a moment to digest all that had been said before announcing that they were renting at the present time and that he would be prepared to rent for a further six months if my friend agreed to take the house off the market, and sell it to them at the same price. His only concern was that his mortgage offer would run out, but that he would deal with this.

The story has a happy ending as contracts have been exchanged and both parties are now living happily in their respective new homes. My friend, by her own admission, is not necessarily the best communicator and she readily acknowledges that she would have accepted her fate of loosing her buyer. As I have said to her since there is a real and valuable lesson to be learnt from this, not only in terms of effective communication skills, but also in the power of being honest. Being honest and equally important dealing with “The elephant in the room”; the chances of my friend having a successful outcome without firstly being honest and secondly dealing with ‘the elephant in the room’ were very slim indeed. A real life’s lesson was learnt that day.

Elephant in the room” is an idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes un-addressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.  This was so obvious to me in my friend’s case. 

Few phrases evoke such perfect imagery as “the elephant in the room.” What could better represent something in a room that you can’t help but notice than a six-ton-plus animal? How could you not talk about something like that?

The more we encourage people to give honest opinions, and deal with “the elephant in the room”, the more likely it is that accuracy and trust will increase and relationships, personal, business or otherwise, will deepen.

Trisha Proud – Partners in Solutions Ltd