I was talking with a contractor friend the other day, and we got on the subject of why more contractors don't embrace the Internet and use the tools that are available to them. It didn't take me long to chime in with the reason I find most likely - they don't have time for the Internet.

I don't buy the argument that small business owners shy away from the Internet because they are more comfortable with their brick-and-mortar storefront, and they are unconvinced that cyberspace is where business should be conducted. I don't even believe they are afraid of the Internet. I believe it all comes down to finding time to use the Internet.

Ah, yes - time.

Personal Experience

As we spoke, I related some stories about our own household. There never seems to be enough time each day to pause and engage in a meaningful conversation that lasts longer than one question and one response.

I often work late into the night in my home office after coming home from my commute to and from the work office. I find time to freelance a little, and I recently completed my very first novel. My wife works several part-time jobs besides her many photography assignments - her favorite work. And our two children are very active in dance, sports, and school activities.

It seems there is never a blank spot on our weekly calendar of events.

We have a hard time fitting in a simple family social activity. And it would be great to find enough time for a "date night," when the kids can be shipped off to friends' houses or a grandparent's home so Mom and Dad can share some private time.

I'm telling you this because I am sure most of you can relate to this type of schedule. You business owners have even more of my sympathy; it's tough to be married to a spouse, to a family, and to a job.

Extracurricular Activities?

Now add extracurricular activities to the mix, like attending contractor meetings, participating in community events, reading a good book, or surfing the Internet.

We have added "answering e-mail" to our list of daily tasks, sometimes devoting hours to sift through the mailbox, looking for the occasional meaningful e-mail hidden somewhere in the middle of all that spam. If I had time to answer all of those offers from exiled dictators, I might have all the time and money I need.

When did we lose the precious gift of time? Probably sometime in between when the first drive-through restaurant opened and next-day delivery was guaranteed. Everything has to be done yesterday. We have this mentality that if we don't get it done right away, some curse will befall us or our customers will find someone else who can work even faster. I know the feeling. It often results in tension and muscle strains in my neck and back. I know I need to slow down when my back starts to ache.

I remember listening to one contractor who said that customers would pay for time. He meant that people would pay a premium for a service tech to show up at a prearranged time, which is usually at the customer's convenience and usually within a "faster than normal" time frame.

Time is money? You bet.

Since we are all after the elusive dollar, we will continue to cram as much as we can into every moment and wonder why we are so burned out at the end of the day. Want to remember the days when people took time to relax? Rent or buy a copy of "Man in a Hurry," an episode from "The Andy Griffith Show."

Watch it - if you have the time.

John Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1294, 248-362-0317 (fax), or johnhall@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 12/01/2003