I saw an interesting sign today while driving around my hometown of Pagosa Springs. It read, “there’s no substitute for experience”.

That’s an interesting thought. And, one with some merit, especially in the context of business which is what this sign was referring to. About the only thing I can think of that makes for a reasonable substitute is cash. Coming in second is patience. You need a healthy supply of both to make-up for the mistakes that inexperience sometimes brings.

Hiring someone with experience is much like having a security blanket. You feel all comfy when you’ve got it, and you get a little edgy when you don’t. You feel better knowing you have someone hired who’s been there and done that. Hopefully, they can do it better, quicker and cheaper. And, keep you out of trouble at the same time. That’s the value of experience.

But, there’s a problem with experience. It can bring on a serious case of tunnel vision leading you down a path of mediocrity yielding an average experience, average customers and very average returns on your investment. People who are “too experienced” are usually set in their ways, overly cautious, fearful of mistakes and are generally risk averse. These same people rarely push the envelope, experience the great “breakthrough” ideas or develop remarkable products. And, they probably don’t have as much fun.

Hiring people with experience is a good thing as long as they have a demonstrated desire to learn. Make sure they have a track record of taking some chances and trying new things. You don’t need blinders on, especially if you’re launching something new.

The only thing experience should help you avoid is the edge of the proverbial cliff. Otherwise, it should provide a safety net enhancing your ability to deal with new direction, ideas and problems…as long as you get the right person on the team.