Spreading Experience Throughout Your Company

Regularly sharing stories about successes and failures can help you build a high level of expertise among all the members of your team

Spreading Experience Throughout Your Company

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Whether you are a carpenter, electrician, hair cutter, or trenchless rehabilitation contractor, the nature of experience doesn’t change. It is the combination of all the skills, knowledge, and past events that you, your company, and your work team have. 

All experience is not good, and all experience is not bad. It is simply that — experience. Sometimes, experience is measured by the amount of time someone has spent doing something: "He has 20 years’ experience in construction." Sometimes, it is more measured: "He has experience constructing public water and sewer projects ranging from $100,000 to $1 million during his last 20 years in the (insert region here)."

Not everyone learns from their experiences, and not everyone knows how to share their experiences with their team to build a "depth of experience." Remember the story about Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River? He had never once landed a jet in a river, but his experience, training, and the depth of the team around him allowed him to overcome a challenge he had never faced and didn’t expect when he went to work that morning in January 2009.  

In regards to trenchless water, sewer, and storm drain renewal and rehab, which is where I have developed most of my work experience, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that experience is not worth much without depth. This depth is the ability to actually use that experience to be successful and avoid failure, and more so the ability to combine similar experiences to continuously improve the people, products, and processes in which you work.

At our company, I am often asked about our experience, and it is easy to blurt out, "We have more than 40 years’ experience." But who is "we," and what is "experience"? 

"We" is our team, all of us, every single one from my father, Jim — who has been working at Ted Berry Company since 1972 and founded the company alongside my grandfather, Ted — to our newest technician. Jim's experiences are wide ranging and cover many aspects of our services. He can often add a "I remember in 1980 we found a large mass of rope in a 36-inch sewer located in a paper mill, and Ted and I ..."

These experiences and the ability to share them within our team are invaluable to us and help us have depth. We share our experiences often. Jim has always taught us to "share the stories" of the company, tell them to each other, talk about what worked, what did not, and how to solve challenges. Additionally, all of our team members make up our collective experience. We have among our ranks professional engineers, people with years of construction experience, veterans, active military members, and people who grew up on farms and in the woods logging as kids with their families. Our collective experience coupled with our ability to share it throughout our company makes up our depth. 

On your next project, ask yourself how you ensure that your company has that "depth of experience." If you have to land a plane in the Hudson River, who do you want flying and who else should make up the flight crew?

About the Author

Matt Timberlake is president of Ted Berry Company in Livermore, Maine.


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