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

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • rockingyourrole  On January 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

    great article Trisha, this re iterates to me the need for employers to take the time to get to know, nurture and develop their staff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: