The True Value of Experience

This weekend, some of our friends were having car trouble.  They had ruled out a dead battery or a low gas tank and they resigned themselves to call roadside assistance.  The tow truck arrived and before it was hitched up, the technician did some trouble-shooting.  He then shimmied under the car and tapped the starter with a hammer.  It started right up.  If they had gotten a bill for this service incidence, the invoice might have read:

                    $1 – hammer tapping

                    $499 – knowing where to tap the hammer

Never undervalue experience.

Each of us have had similar experiences when bringing in an expert has made all the difference.  Costs avoided.  Disasters averted.  Downtime reduced.  Customers delighted.

And yet, we all romanticize the do-it-yourselfer.  Those Pinterest-fueled upstarts who can tackle professional-grade projects and make it look easy.  There are television networks to celebrate their accomplishments.  These shows give us confidence.  Maybe even over-confidence.  After all, we are seeing huge transformations in a 30 minute show.  A few time lapse videos between the opening credits and the big reveal.  That is certainly true in the personal world.

But it is also true in the professional world.  Sometimes executives find it tempting to think they can do marketing, business development or even legal work, without trained experts.  It is an all-too-common scenario to over estimate our own abilities and our time and to experience “Pinterest fail” type experiences in the work world.

So, when do you call in an expert?

1. When the risk of being wrong is extreme.

This obviously applies to litigation or regulatory compliance issues or any area where specialty knowledge is required, but it also applies to areas where the strategic risk is high.  If you can experiment with little impact, then, by all means, feel free to do so.  When you need a decision that is warranted or that requires technical expertise, call in the guru.

2. When time is of the essence.

Do you have a limited market window to get a product to market before big competitors sabotage your chances?  Then you might want a professional sales and marketing team with industry experience who can hit the ground running.  If you want to avoid delays in getting your product certified, setting up an efficient assembly line, or launching a new website, find someone who has done the work before and has a proven track record. 

3. When you are better suited for other priorities.

My grandpa, who has a contractor, told a story about how a doctor client of his took vacation time to paint his own house instead of hiring someone.  If he had worked that week, he could have paid a painter and had money left over, plus ended up spending more time than a professional. “It’s hard to beat a man at his own craft,” he would say.  Each one of us has things that we are great at and the more time we can spend doing those things, instead of doing a mediocre job, that others could do. Know what you are good at focus your time there.

This article was featured on LinkedIn Pulse.