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I'll buy time any day.

Many people value money as the most important thing in life, and will gladly trade time for it. The pursuit of saving money is an extremely American one. People will spend time in line for free stuff, just because it’s free. Motorists getting tickets will spend days in court, just to avoid a fine. Clipping coupons has become an art form, and even extended to the digital world in the form of sites like SlickDeals and Groupon.

Me, I like time. To me, time is way more valuable than the almighty dollar. Reason: I can’t get it back. Evar.

If I get a parking ticket, I know that if I pony up that those 55 greenbacks, chances are there will be a check with my name on it in the next couple of weeks that puts that those 55 American pesos back in my pocket. If went to court, I’d never get back that 3-4 hours of my life. I’d also probably lose the case. I’d also probably spend that time sitting next to someone who smells like cheese. Paying up gives me a net gain of 3-4 hours of my life, which I could spend doing stuff I like.

Being on a development team in a startup is pretty much the same thing. Your team should be focusing as much time as possible on actually developing your product. That means doing the things unique to your business and focusing on what your company decides it’s core competency should be. However, there’s tons of work that is hard, time-consuming, and generally unpleasant. Not only is it unpleasant, but it can be incredibly time-consuming, because chances are, you’re not good at it, or find it kind of icky. Leave that stuff to someone else. Even better, find someone who likes doing that stuff and pay them to do it.

In the cloud-infested webscape that exists today, there are any number of companies that have decided that their core competency is something specialized that you probably need. Companies that specialize in IT management, video encoding, DNS, storage, billing, etc. all exist and are willing to accept a chunk of your cold hard cash to provide a service. The most important thing to realize, is that if time is of the essence (and it always is), you’re not just buying a service, you’re also buying the time it would take to you to build that service yourself. So don’t be a crafty coupon-clipper and build it yourself. Buy back that precious, precious time and spend it doing something you really like.

Published Jun 16, 2010

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