If you have worked with Americans in the past, or if you have even watched American television, you have probably heard the phrase ‘time is money.’ But how important is this phrase in American business culture? What does it really mean? Understanding American business culture isn’t as easy as understanding this one phrase, but it’s a good place to start!
‘Time is money’ seems like an easy phrase to understand. In every culture, we need to spend time in one way or another to make money. Maybe it simply seems logical to say that in general people who spend their time more efficiently make more money, but in American business culture, the idea of ‘time is money’ doesn’t stop there. For Americans time is one of the most important assets, which can be saved, spent, lost, found, invested, and wasted. Wasting time is just as bad as wasting money, because in the American mindset, these two things have a lot to do with each other.
This is an important part of the reason why Americans have a strong work ethic, and often work long hours. For American businesspeople, it is important to invest a lot of time in their work if they want to be successful. Unsurprisingly, punctuality is also an important part of American business culture. A good way to offend your American colleagues is to show up late to a meeting, or to drop by during business hours ‘just to chat’ with them for an hour! Lateness and wasting time is considered an indication that you don’t respect your colleagues because you don’t respect their time. For this reason, schedules and deadlines are important, and not taking them seriously is considered a serious sign of disrespect.
Because of their ‘time-conscious’ mindset, Americans are also focused on making deals and reaching agreements quickly. For some people, this can seem hasty. Sometimes it may seem like your American colleagues don’t really take all the time they need to think things over and get all the facts, but in American business culture the focus is on getting the best possible results in the shortest period of time. In the American business world, there is no time to wait for absolutely all the facts to come in. The more time that is spent on deciding, the more money is lost on it, so fast decisions are ideal.
The mindset of ‘time is money’ is important to understanding American business culture, but there are many other important aspects to doing business successfully with Americans. Doing business internationally is not just about understanding different markets and economies, but also about understanding different mindsets. So, the next time you hear a phrase like ‘time is money’, invest a little bit of your time to think about what it means and how it impacts business culture. Increasing your intercultural competence can not only save you time and money – not to mention embarrassment – in the global market!