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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Turn Experience into Expertise

Many years ago, when I was a callow youth, I was given the opportunity to learn about selling engineering products at the feet of a master, a wonderful man called Phil Copp.

Phil was, at that time some 50 years ago, a stereotypical salesman of the era. Maybe my memory plays tricks with me after so long but I seem to recall a gabardine raincoat, a trilby hat, a moustache and a pipe, all of which fitted the image perfectly.

Phil had eons of experience and he used it at every touch and turn. I well recall being with him in a Lancashire mill town when he suddenly stopped the car outside a mill, got out and started to sniff the air.

I was slightly bemused by all this and asked him, with some diffidence I must confess, what he was doing.

“They have a particular process here” he said “and we can make it run better. Come on!” We went into reception and Phil asked (demanded actually) to see the works engineer who duly emerged metaphorically wiping his hand on a filthy rag.

“Now then” said Phil, “You’re running such and such a process here, aren’t you?” (Memory failure at this stage prevents me from recalling what the process was).

“We are” said the engineer. “Right” said Phil “We can make it run far more efficiently. Come on!” (he liked the imperative)

We went down into the works, took a look at the process, and Phil told the engineer precisely how he could improve the shining hour, which he did in the fullness of time, and successfully, resulting in a nice order on the books for Phil.

The moral of the story? If you say that you have twenty years experience, be careful that it doesn’t turn out to be one year’s experience replicated twenty times.

The really clever thing is to turn your experience into expertise. Assess what you have learned over the years and exploit it (in the nicest possible way) to the benefit of others and, of course, yourself.

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