Is Experience Overrated?

When I was growing up, I remember comments like “he’s built up a wealth of experience” or “you can’t buy experience”. But, at the time I associated these sorts of comments with “old” people who seemed to be well behind the curve in technology and so “what could they possibly know about business today?”.

I think I have built up a reasonable amount of experience since then. Does that make me “old”. I know what my daughter would say.

You cannot help but build up experience during the course of your life. You cannot avoid it. However, you do have a say in what sort of experiences you accumulate. In our case we have emersed ourselves in a business environment for the last few years. We have the experience of seeing every form of accounting records that any of our clients could possibly deliver, we have negotiated leases, we have employed staff, and we navigate the regulatory environment of our profession. We also now have experience of acquiring other practices and running multiple locations, which by any stretch of the imagination are geographically challenged. Our choice.

I was speaking to someone a few days ago who could not imagine running more that one location. We were like that once. But, if you are open to developing as a person and feel that you are ready then each step you take, each mistake you make adds to your own experience and opens doors to yet more experiences. With each step you grow not just as a business, but as a person. Each step expands your comfort zone. You grow and with each experience you become more comfortable with taking on new experiences that just a few years ago, you would have thought were beyond you.

In my own mind, experience is just one part of what you need. I have met some very experienced accountants who struggle with technology and all the momentous changes that we are seeing in the UK tax system. Their experience is valuable, but they have not grasped the opportunities that this affords them. I sometimes think that I am struggling with the new technologies but then I speak to other accountants, and I realise that, although I will not know as much as some, I am well up there. Anyway, if I do need help, I just go and speak to Helen, and she keeps me right.

My mother had an expression that she used to explain why she did not like various foods. This included things as mundane as spaghetti, but she would say that “she was not brought up with it”. I think that a lot of people have this approach to life generally. I don’t think any of us like change but once you reconcile yourself to change and embrace it, you grow, and in growing this changes you. The old paper based systems have given way to computers and now cloud technology. We were not brought up with them, but we have embraced them just the same.

I find it quite funny, but I still remember the old section numbers to the Taxes Acts that were current when I trained as an accountant.  The section numbers have changed with the new legislation but the new ones never seem to have stuck. The wording is much the same but for some reason the new numbers just aren’t in my brain. But I have embraced the use of all the software that we use in our day-to-day operations, paperless working, cloud-based accounting systems and all the ways in which we now communicate with you whether by Zoom, Teams, soft phones and of course mobiles. Where would be without our mobiles. But it is just what we do, and it has just built up almost imperceptibly over the years.

Building your experiences is a gradual process and what I do see so often is that people take the value of their own experience for granted and so to them has no value. I have seen people squander this capital that they have banked over the years. They know so much and yet they don’t credit it with any value or importance and just leave it “to whither on the vine” when there was much that they could have done with it.

So, in your personal life and in your work, whatever that may be, what experience have you build up in the university of life? In what subject or subjects are you qualified by experience?

Many years ago I obtained a degree from St Andrews University. It was in Geology. It does not seem particularly relevant to what I do now, but it was part of my journey. Without it I would not be doing what I do now. I have professional qualifications gained by passing exams. I remember pouring over the interaction of Development Land Tax and Capital Transfer Tax in preparation for my tax exams. Those taxes no longer exist but passing the exams was another stage in my journey. But undeniably the most valuable asset in my locker is the experience gained since those days. Without the experience gained over the years, I could not do what I do now.

In so many applications and situations there really is no substitute for experience. But as with so many things, it is not what you have, it is what you do with it that counts.

If you want to carry on this discussion but you are not sure where to find us, please click here.

Alan E Long

The Long Partnership

07770 738770



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