“penny wise pound foolish”

I will always remember this advice shared with me by a business owner. While he gave me this advice for a specific business operation matter, I feel this quote can be used in many other issues.

For business issues, while we want to cut down on costs – is cutting away employee benefits like providing a refreshment pantry with beverages going to help meet the company’s bottom line that much? I will call this penny wise? But we forget how the employee would feel – unappreciated & contributions worth to the company – and that’s pound foolish. An unhappy employee would not bother with giving their 100% to the company when one is not even worth 2 cups of coffee a day.

For business partners, while everyone strive to win – win in any business dealings, sometimes – losing is needed. And when losing is required, one should weigh the cost of winning at the other’s party’s expense. If one made a decision to win & forgetting the position of oneself in that partnership – then that’s penny wise pound foolish should the ‘losing’ business partner is stronger in technical, financial & negotiation power. Often times, the stronger position business partner can ‘lose’ but if the principles were wrong, then that ‘winning’ business partner is in hot soup – totally pound foolish.

For personal choices, while it is cheaper to eat out (at least in M’sia’s context) or to do home catering – which is penny wise vs cooking at home (more work – need to find fresh produce, need time to cook), would I sacrifice the value of quality of food & nutrition over dollar & cents? No. I rather to have less sick days for my kids vs cheaper catered food ie I rather not be pound foolish cos a kid getting sick means not just the medical costs but your work time loss.

There are many things in life that we sometimes need to make decisions based on costs but then sometimes the value of a decision / action is not just dollar & cents. Can one put a value of enjoying a good meal at a place you are not going to be again in the next 10 years by the additional $20 you have to fork out for that meal? Or can one put a value of learning new recipes just because you have to cook everyday?  Or even the value of having your kid learning to help you with household chores?  Yes – these can’t be valued by just dollars & cents.

I would forever remember this age old saying of penny wise but pound foolish.



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