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  • Writer's pictureJoel White

Lifelong Learning

The tricky part about being a consultant who publishes on social media is that I want to provide value, best practices, and helpful advice, but with full knowledge that such tidbits and principles are rarely one size fits all. Some things I wrote in 2021 might not be true today, and something I write this month might not be true in two years.

Lifelong learning requires the discipline to do your best to master the topics you focus on, the confidence to apply that mastery to the situations you're presented with (or are paid to improve), and the humility to recognize you'll never completely master a subject. Without the first, you'll never surpass your peers in expertise. Without the second, your expertise will lack the benefit of practical application. Without the third, you'll get stuck in the ways things have always been done.

Below are examples from my own career and consulting practice:

  • I used to emphasize timesheets as the cornerstone of project finance management. While important for hourly contractors, for organizations who staff mostly with employees I've learned it's far more important to know if the sum total of your projects means customers are paying you for 15 Project Managers but you have 20 on payroll. It's not as important that on average it's taking them 20 hours to write a Project Plan.

  • I used to go to great lengths to get information on recent performance data to inform go-forward pricing algorithms, and would push my clients to get it. Now I rarely request it, and often ignore it when provided unsolicited.

  • Hourly work was ~20% of my revenue during my first year on my own. It's down to ~5%, the goal is 0% (practice what you preach), and I haven't sent a "T&M" invoice in months. Yet business is booming.

  • There is work I used to take on that I no longer do. That lost revenue is gained focus and sanity.

  • Pricing tools I develop today are better than ones I built for clients 18 months ago. Which means, pricing tools I developed 18 months ago could have been better, and pricing tools I develop today won't be as good as ones I develop in 2025. Remember that "humility" part I mentioned?

  • I learn just as much from my clients than they learn from me, and for the sake of current and future clients that needs to always be the case.

  • There are things I did not enjoy doing at first (business development, marketing) that I knew were important. Once I did them consistently (e.g., writing a post every single Wednesday), I got better at them, which produced results, and now I enjoy them. We enjoy doing things we're good at and get positive results from.

  • This is why I push service providers to price for the future, not the past. Historical data is based on historical policies, personnel, technology, and knowledge, and thus is at best an interesting data point. You should price for where your organization is going, not where it was...unless you're not going anywhere. Gretzky skated to where the puck was going, not to where it was on the last play.

Never stop learning. Apply that expertise wherever it can be valuable. Don't look back with regret at situations where you did your best but weren't as skilled as you are now. And don't let the past dictate your future.

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