You can spend it, but can you buy it?

A phenomenon has occurred in recent years that has almost gone unnoticed by most of us. It was always said that time is the only thing we spend but cannot buy.

But in recent years more and more businesses have been created that give us the opportunity to ‘buy’ time that we would otherwise spend (or waste) doing something less productive or enjoyable.

In truth this isn’t a completely new phenomenon; gardeners, maids, cooks and other household staff have long been employed to carry out domestic tasks, but such opportunities were usually the preserve of the wealthy.

In today’s economy we can all buy back a little time thanks to a plethora of businesses that will deliver products and services to our door.

Amazon, and other online retailers, are the obvious example but fast food deliveries are rapidly catching up. Never before has it been so easy to acquire products and services without having to leave your home or office.

Which is good news for consumers and for the growing number of businesses that can supply their products and services in this way. And by focusing on the speed of delivery they divert our attention from the delivery itself and any negative impact it may have on the environment .(How many trees does it take to make all that packaging?).

They obsess in particular about the ‘last mile’; the distance from the fulfillment centre (the term Amazon use for a warehouse) to your home or office, which is the most expensive part of the journey from manufacturer to consumer. Amazon has recently filed a patent for a buggy in every home which trundles out to a van, picks up our orders, and brings them in. We come home from work, and there our goods are waiting for us.

This ability to buy back a little time by not having to drive to a store, pick up groceries, cook or do household and administrative tasks has become part of our daily lives. And speed of delivery has become a determining factor in our buying decision. Amazon Prime customers have been known to delete an item from their shopping cart if it isn’t available for next day delivery. In some high density locations you can order groceries and office consumables for delivery with 2 hours while concentrating on what you do best (or just watching another Box-set!).

Most of us have used these services and come to depend on them. As the population ages the opportunity to have heavier items delivered rather than carried how from a store has broadened their use across all age groups.

But have you considered how your business could benefit by providing your products or services in a way that saves your customers time?

Most small businesses rely on traditional distribution channels and business models. Do you? When did you last question how you attract and deliver to your customers? What innovative delivery methods are your competitors using? How could you disrupt the status quo in your business segment?

Examples are everywhere if you look for them. In my industry, virtual assistants and bookkeepers have become the norm for many entrepreneurial business owners to acquire the administrative services they require on demand, using the most up to date technology, at a much-reduced cost over employing someone, with the ability to upskill without any recruitment or training costs. From a remote location – avoiding the need for and cost of office space, equipment and computers – the service is available and delivered when required.

If you study business successes and failures, as I do, it is interesting to see how often two very similar businesses with similar products and markets perform so differently: one succeeding whilst the other struggles. Look closely and you’ll see that the successful business owners are constantly looking at ways to improve both their product or service and their delivery methods and performance. Why don’t you join them?

Noel Guilford, Principal at Guilford Accounting
Noel Guilford is the principal of Guilford Accounting a small business accountancy practice specialising in advising owner-managed businesses on current accounting, finance, and tax matters. You can reach him via email at noel@guilfordaccounting.co.uk or by phone at 01244 660866. He is the author of the 'Figure it out - an entrepreneurs guide to understanding your business numbers' which you can obtain by visiting guilfordaccounting.co.uk.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ His latest book, How to Build a Successful Business' will be published in 2018.

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