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“Years of combined experience” : how does it add up?

My wife and I have been married 36 years. I suppose you could say that we have 72 years of combined experience being married. Does that mean that I should be a marriage consultant?

Judging from the use of “years of combined experience” in advertisements, many people must think that combined experience adds up to expertise, even in the Show-Me State, where people are not sheeple but skeptics. Here are some samples:

  • AllPro Yacht Sales and Service at Lake of the Ozarks answers the question of “Why list with us?” with “60 Years of combined experience with all types of vessels”
  • My friend Rick Muenks’s Springfield-based real estate appraisal company boasts “50 years of combined experience in the real estate industry.”

Are four years of experience twice as good as two? Aren’t there diminishing returns, or would we expect to learn as much in years 25-30 as years 1 though 5? Is a busy year of experience worth more than a slow year?

If we combine the years of experience of several people, what do we really get? I have been in jobs where I really wasn’t interested, so that in the year or two I was there–believe me, it  seemed like a lot longer–I learned very little. Yet I can count this as combined experience when I put it with the experience of someone else, who may also have been daydreaming.

What’s the upper limit for combined experience? Builders Screen and Aluminum is proud that its installation crew has 100 years of combined experience. The agents of Real Estate Brokers of Missouri have over 150 combined years of experience, with photographs on its website of seven people, two of whom are named Olga, so you can see that these years are spread over seven people rather than two people with 75 years each, or one with 65 years and one with 10.

When it comes to one person’s years of experience in a profession, you don’t find individuals claiming more than 40 years. Nobody wants to risk giving the impression of being old. But with combined years of experience, even 150 is not too much. Akers & Arney Insurance in Branson has over 250 years of combined experience.

For total years of combined experience, it’s hard to beat a bunch of retirees. SCORE, which stands for “service corps of retired executives” may be in a class by itself. Volunteers at the Lake of the Ozarks chapter of SCORE have “over 1,000 years of combined experience as Executives and Business Managers.”

As I became more mature, or at least older, I probably learn a little less each day. On some days I discover that I’ve forgotten more than I have learned. If this continues, eventually I will have forgotten more than I ever knew. Nobody will want to combine their experience with mine.


About Harry Styron

I'm a lawyer and mediator who lives in Branson, Missouri, whose professional interests involve real estate, nonprofits, and local government. As of 2022, I'm shrinking my legal practice so that I have more time to mediate real estate disputes. I'm happy to mediate using video platforms like Zoom and WebEx, or in person anywhere in Missouri.

One response »

  1. Michael B Williams

    Until mind melding(Star Trek reference) becomes a thing, I think “combined years” is total crap. Two people going through college taking the same courses to get the same degree will have very similar experiences when it comes to their schooling, combining their years isn’t going to make them more expert than any other person who has also gone through those same courses. And it won’t make them as experienced as someone who has surpassed them and furthered their education. So yeah, I don’t know why saying this is a thing really, have they done any experiments to see if companies that claim this get more business? I’m not fooled by it. I go more by how long a company has been established and even more importantly, what their customers say.


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