I have been reading one of a Mae West biography. Yes, Mae West… the Hollywood actress, sex symbol, script write, real estate magnate and diamond expert! Just a few pages into the manuscript I came to realise what an extraordinary business woman she was for her time.
By mid 1930s, not only was she one of the best paid actresses in Hollywood but she was also investing heavily on tangible assets, such as real estate and diamonds, in order to avoid the impact of the Great Depression. Her life and work is full of sensible advise for business people.
When she first went to Hollywood to work for Paramount, she found herself wondering idly in the city. The studio has not provided her with a script to study and they thought she should be happy to have some time off. She seems to be exasperated by this behaviour. She commented as follows:
“If they want to throw their money away, that was their business, but they couldn’t throw away my time. Time is more valuable than money, anyway. Money is interchangeable. And you can always get more money. You can’t never get more time, no matter what you do.” (She Always Knew How: Mae West, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler, 2009)
This motif has been repeated in many discussions I had with entrepreneurs. Money comes and goes. Once you understand how to open the tap of cash, even if it dries up temporarily, you will always be able to open it again in the future. In the past, we have seen plenty examples of rich business people that lost their wealth… temporarily. Most of them regained it within the space of a few years. Not least among them, Donald Trump, who was in a dire financial state in the mid nineties, until he bounced back stronger and richer.
The one resource that an entrepreneur does not enjoy in abundance is Time. The day has only 24 hours, every day for a limited number of years. Building an organisation and growing it takes hundreds of thousands of these human hours. In order to leverage their position, entrepreneurs hire people or outsource some of the work or delegate the majority of tasks.
Mae West was fully aware of her mortality, her business capabilities and the restrictions of time. As a successful business woman, she guarded her time closely, and she managed to create a fortune during her prime.