Time bankruptcy results from the deliberate over-commitment of core resources.

You’d know the symptoms, if not the name. You’re fighting to put out the fires from customer complaints, or incomplete work, or are suffering from an inability to focus upon new development or new customers before cleaning up the mess inside your organization.

I created the term “time bankruptcy” almost thirty years ago when the computer software business was young, and I was a software developer building a young company based upon quality first. Asked to speak at software industry events, I found my voice and immediate audience understanding as I described variants of these problems to my audience. The insight became clearer as I was hired again and again to pick up the pieces of failed programming efforts by other software companies in this then young industry.

Here is one example: You take on a new customer, customize programs or services as needed, and install perhaps an 80% completed system, product or service. The customer pays for all or at least 90% of the bill, perhaps holding back a retainer awaiting completion.

Burning through the payment and needing more to cover fixed overhead, you do the same partial task for the next 80% customer, moving on to the third. About that time, the first would call asking for completion, firmly but politely. The fourth installation was interrupted as the first customer suggested that he would stop giving glowing recommendations for you, insisting upon a completion date, while the second customer interrupted with its first call for completion. By the fifth or sixth (who keeps count for these stories?), the first threatens suit, the second becomes demanding and the third makes that expected call for a completion date. So, you stop work on the newest product or installation to complete unfinished work. Revenues dry up while overhead continues to burn though your pockets. It’s a classic case of time bankruptcy. You have deliberately overcommitted your prime or core resources (in this case personal time) leading to a loss of income and reputation that you cannot easily recover.

The same story could be constructed for any company selecting a limited number of test customers for a new product. Select too many, and pay too little attention to each. Commit all your core resources to solving the resulting problem, and new work stops. Time bankruptcy. Not a pretty sight, and completely avoidable.

Be aware of this trap. No-one but yourself can be blamed for allowing core resources to be overcommitted, even if by subordinates. That’s because you now know the term and the impact of such an error in judgment, and understand that the simple but important remedy is to slow the commitment of those most critical resources to the front lines.

SOURCEBerkonomics
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Dave Berkus
Dave Berkus is a noted speaker, author and early stage private equity investor. He is acknowledged as one of the most active angel investors in the country, having made and actively participated in over 87 technology investments during the past decade. He currently manages two angel VC funds (Berkus Technology Ventures, LLC and Kodiak Ventures, L.P.) Dave is past Chairman of the Tech Coast Angels, one of the largest angel networks in the United States. Dave is author of “Basic Berkonomics,” “Berkonomics,” “Advanced Berkonomics,” “Extending the Runway,” and the Small Business Success Collection. Find out more at Berkus.com or contact Dave at dberkus@berkus.com

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