One of the benefits of being an independent consultant is that I’m now my own CFO, COO, CEO, UFO… and I don´t have to ask anyone about competence development budgets. On the other hand, since it’s money out of my own pocket, it can be tempting to postpone or skip learning.

In my previous post “Invest in Employees who Invest in Themselves”, I stressed how neglecting to invest in employee development is a hopeless strategy and I believe the same holds true for me as an independent consultant. In addition to experience and track record, I believe an up-to-date skill set plays an important part in why my clients are willing to pay reasonable prices for my services.

To keep sharp, and because I really enjoy learning, my strategy is to invest roughly 10 % of revenue in competence development. Even though this number is considerable higher than the budget I had at my disposal as an employee, it’s still a zero-sum game and I therefore have to be smart about how I spend it.

I have always read a lot of books and blogs on Agile and leadership. I have also written a great deal on and off during the years as a way of structuring my thoughts. Some of it might make it onto this blog at some point, but most of it is probably best left unpublished. Along with webcasts, online collaboration etc. these are financial relative low-cost learning opportunities.

At the other end of the cost scale are conferences and courses. Both activities can be extremely fun, energizing and inspiring, but in contrast to many of the activities listed above, conferences and courses can rarely be done after hours. They therefore take time away from client engagements and to make matters worse, they are often associated with a considerable financial cost covering participation fee, travel, accommodations, etc.

Often there is not much you can do to reduce the cost of courses, but when it comes to conferences there are a few opportunities to reduce cost. Maybe the most obvious and secure one is to register early and thereby get a discount on the registration fee. Another option that demands a little more work is to try to get on the speaker list, which is often associated with a considerable discount or even a free entry.

Personally, I have decided to invest in two more conferences this year. Needless to say, I’ll attend Agile Coach Camp Denmark in October. It’s in my backyard, some very interesting people are attending and it would be a little weird if I didn’t show up at a conference I’m co-organizing 😉

At the end of November I’ll join the rest of goAgile on a company trip to XP Days 2012 Benelux in Heeze, the Netherlands. Ole, together with Martin Heider, will deliver a keynote on “My Magic Agile Suitcase”, Jenni will facilitate “Culture’s Consequences on Teams” with Nicole Belilos and lastly Ole have convinced me to co-facilitate a session involving singing on enterprise agility called “Agile XXL”. Did I just write singing… what have I gotten myself into?

If you have a personal investment strategy I would love to hear from you. How do you value conferences versus other activities? What investments gives you the best return on investment and why?

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