Peter BigelowDon’t be deceived into thinking your company is running smoothly.

Running a business, I have learned, is full of paradoxes. There are tasks that may be simple but not easy to do. There are tasks that are easy to do but not necessarily simple. And there are tasks that start off looking easy and simple but end up just confusing. Toughest of all, however, is remaining focused on what is critical to success. Focus too often starts off appearing both easy and simple, but then morphs into such chaos that one forgets what they were trying to accomplish in the first place – and why. At such times managers need to remember that no matter the type of initiative (simple, easy, focused, confusing), success boils down to best utilizing the invaluable three Ts: Treasure, Talent, and Time.

Treasure may seem obvious, yet when undertaking a new initiative it is often the most underestimated resource. Yes, everyone knows how to calculate the cost to purchase needed equipment and materials. And it is true those all around you (especially above) will hammer away to make sure every penny is accounted for and every penny of return is realized. What is more often than not underestimated, however, is how much treasure is required to make it through those rainy days caused by anything from a bad month to a lost customer to an economic downturn.

More than a few businesses have foundered by underestimating the amount of treasure – working capital – required to ensure survival of tough times, or being able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities when they may appear. Making sure you have put aside Treasure is important, but appropriately budgeting how much you will safely need to accomplish your objective is critical to success. Accounting for the working capital requirements when moving forward with any initiative is not always simple, and never easy, but always necessary, to provide the maximum margin for unforeseen events. Only by sweating the details and including all the “what ifs” will you have the security to take on new challenges with confidence knowing that financially, there is adequate Treasure for success.

If Treasure is the most underestimated resource, talent may well be the resource that leads to corporate overconfidence. Talent is people. And people – even the best ones – are easily spread so thin that instead of individual success, the result is group failure. Worse, there is often a disconnect between what workers can actually do and what we would like them to accomplish. Talent needs to be recharged through formal and informal training, or they can lose their edge. Talent needs to be sought after, recruited and developed – not left in a static task and expected to grow.

Because Talent has a personality, Talent can appear deceiving. Right when you think you have a focused staff ready to tackle a major initiative, you may find their confusion converts the simplest and easiest project into a disastrous failure. Ignoring talent and not developing individuals is more often than not the differentiator between success and failure. Refreshing, retraining and renewing your talent pool takes time and treasure but provides the needed resources to take on a new project or take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

Time is too often the totally ignored resource. Everyone counts it; everyone wishes they had more of it, but few truly take advantage of it in their day-to-day careers.

Time requires discipline, as in discipline to measure how long it takes to complete tasks, how much time material, parts – even talent sits doing nothing. And discipline to look objectively at a task, schedule it and then hold all accountable to complete it in the allocated time. Discipline requires having talent – people – who both appreciate the value of time, and are committed to taking full advantage of it. Time, when best utilized, reduces the amount of talent required to achieve an objective and will result in greater amounts of treasure.  

The three Ts – Time, Talent and Treasure – are what business is all about. When properly harnessed, they eliminate confusion, provide focus, and make the most challenging and aggressive initiatives both simple and easy. When ignored or worse, squandered they can make the most basic tasks become complex, confusing and hard.

Too often we only realize how effective our stewardship of the three Ts has been – or not been – when we can least afford it. To wit, investing in a new technology only to find your talent pool lacks the skills and therefore takes far more time than expected – thus depleting working capital – zaps treasure. Or when a customer proposes a new, lucrative project, only to find you lack treasure (cash) to purchase what is needed, and the talent pool is overcommitted to routine work, leaving no time to satisfy the client. After the fact is no time to realize you failed to take the necessary preparations to take advantage of new opportunities.

Equally, we are lulled into complacency over the all-important basics of business. Are we putting enough aside in the way of treasure for that inevitable rainy day?
Are we investing in training for existing staff and hiring the best people we can, so we have the best talent resources to take us to the next level? Are we using time to our advantage, or squandering it such that our competition can gain a leg up on us? Whenever the simple and easy tasks become anything but, and focus gives way to confusion, it’s time to revisit and revitalize those all-important three Ts.

Peter Bigelow is president and CEO of IMI (; His column appears monthly.

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