Other People’s Money

I was with a group of friends recently and we were discussing conferences.  One person said “Was it worth it?  Would you have been annoyed if you had spent that much of your own money to attend?”  And it struck me right there and then- we treat the money in our own pockets, and in those of our close friends as if it were gold, but we treat the money from others, from Companies in particular, as if it were as ubiquitous as water.  Why is that?

Companies, small businesses, and individuals all use the same currency to pay for things.  All businesses, from sole proprietors to larger ones can write off conference expenses against their taxes- and this advantage only accrues if you have taxes to pay, of course.  While it’s true that the knowledge imparted at some conferences may have a bigger dollar for dollar payoff- it can be shared with others at the company and leverged for better returns, perhaps- the money used for the conference costs, travel expenses, expense accounts is the same, no matter who you are.

So I’m wondering- why do we continue to assume that if it’s the Company’s money, somehow it’s less valuable than if its our own?

I think it’s incumbent on everyone who attends a conference on someone else’s behalf, or at someone else’s expense to remember this, and treat the experience as if you were spending your own money for the experience.  Treat the sessions and opportunities to meet and mix with others as a rare privilege, and as if it were your money.

I know when I seek out sponsors for events like Podcamp, I make sure the sponsors are receiving good value for their money, and that I spend it carefully- as if it were my own, not just someone else’s money.

Because money is money.  It doesn’t come in two varieties, one corporate and one individual.  It’s still just money that now, more than ever, shouldn’t be treated as a luxury.

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