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


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

By Trisha Proud - learnpurple associate

It was Oscar Wilde that famously said “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”; but what did he 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 fall short of our financial targets or over spend our budgets.
  • With outdated ‘mission statements’ fading into the background, the new genre is ‘company values’. This is no bad thing as it helps to instil meaning and integrity, focusing the employee on the cultural issues of the organisations in which they work.

Wilde’s quote is two separate statements, standing alone with, what seems, little connection. So 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; 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 monetary 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 an individual then the employer to 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 their 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 monetary value of new and existing customers can bring; but equally important establishing the often unknown ‘non-monetary value’.

As a facilitator 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 committees or business boards existing or potential clients sit on or attend.
  • Who their clients/customer broader networks are 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”. As you can see, much can be learnt from getting to grips with what ‘value’ is in your business –what it’s worth to business success and how you add value to your client relationships. More time should be spent acknowledging and recognising that, along with price, value is also worth its two cents...

Do you know the value of employees in your business? Are you delivering value at no additional cost to your clients?

Trisha is also a member of the Women 01st Top 100 Club.

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