An Intangible Luxury
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Regional Director and its connection to success. Paul Harris ponders time
I once said to an audience of business principals, some of whom were Rolls-Royce clients, that time was possibly the most important factor in their businesses.As many of us know, of all the resources at our disposal, time is perhaps the only one which we cannot acquire more of and therefore need to use wisely.
Time is needed to embrace new challenges, new customers and therefore new approaches. It certainly was time for me to reflect as we had introduced more new models to our Rolls-Royce range with Ghost, Phantom Series II and the promise of a magnificent new car – now revealed to be Wraith. Our business in the Asia Pacific region was also expanding. Everyone knows that markets fluctuate, and in the long-term, Asia will become the heartbeat of the world’s economy. It is only a matter of time.
I then began to reflect on how important time is to me, how technology has progressed since I started my career in the car industry nearly 30 years ago, and how the Rolls-Royce brand has evolved in 109 years since that seminal moment when Charles Rolls and Henry Royce met over lunch.
Time is hugely important to me, as it probably is to you. We need to juggle myriad responsibilities – jobs, family, health, relationships, “me” time and, in many cases, giving back to society. I remark on the latter as I see more and more philanthropists giving up their time and money for worthy causes every day.
I have observed over the years that we tend to have an unhealthy obsession with speed. Sometimes the race to achieve success means significant things are left behind.The rush to modernisation in Asia, for example, has left some cityscapes sterile. While it is always a pleasure to visit one’s favourite coffee chain in a foreign city, I cannot help but wonder if globalisation has left us with nothing more than mirror images in each Asian metropolis which possess little local flavour or flair. Some may assume that the key to success is devoted work time and a strong work ethic. Studies show that the upcoming generation values work-life balance more than their elders, who place emphasis on loyalty, job security or rewards.Yet, the aspiring youth of today are no less competitive. Management gurus exhort that time is “precious” and “irreplaceable”, so we speed up. But paradoxically, the business of handcrafted, bespoke cars thrives on well-apportioned time in order to ensure quality, excellence, and attention to detail.
Today’s rush for accomplishment can be brutal. In modern, professional sports culture, an athlete’s success is generally defined as his or her becoming a world champion in his or her early 20s. But following the flurry of media attention and public adoration, it is all over by the time the athlete is 30. How do we sustain repeated success? I think there is no clear answer.The word
“Increasingly, I see time as a luxury. It’s a conundrum that the greater the success, the greater the
“authenticity” comes to mind: staying true to one’s values consistently (brand and product) while also moving with the times; balancing some time-honoured virtues. For ultra-luxury products, the need to be timeless in terms of design and craftsmanship comes to mind – a feat that I believe we at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars have managed to achieve since this new era, in which Rolls-Royce began production in Goodwood, began in 2003.
However, innovation is also a constant challenge as product cycles are becoming shorter. Many innovative high-tech companies are advocates of “20 per cent time”. The core idea behind this — that knowledge workers are most valuable when they are given space in which to experiment — is apparently more relevant than ever. We do something akin to this at Rolls-Royce, and some of our best ideas make it to the production line.
Time also allows us to reflect, reinvent, and re-adapt. I fondly remember this quote that someone once said to me: “However we remember the past, or anticipate the future, we live in the present.”
This has been a mantra that I share with my team. We certainly cannot change what has happened, but we can definitely programme ourselves to create a tomorrow.
Increasingly, I see time as a luxury. It’s a conundrum that the greater the success, the greater the time burden.The usual advice dispensed is that we can get it all done with better organisation. But this surely is a fallacy. We will always have challenges to face and activities to do. The solution is to rethink how we manage our time. I recently received an email from a highly satisfied customer who was on a 2,500km journey in one of our cars. He is cer tainly enjoying his life with a passion. Perhaps this is the way to go.
The reward is in making the time, not just the money.