Living on the Growing Edge

Living on the Growing Edge is the title of a book I read some years ago.

The author recalls meeting a remarkable teacher, “…one of those gifted people who realises that she is not teaching subjects but persons. In her classroom young people not only mastered learning skills, but began to understand themselves and life. This teacher was able to consistently encourage her students and help them excel.”

Her method, a concept common in education, was to discover the ‘growing edge’ of each of her students, where the student is ready and able to learn. Beyond that the student is not able to cope, and behind that the student is easily bored.[1]

Since launching into a consulting career in 1993 after many years of secure employment I have been acutely aware of my ‘growing edge’. Private practice has been my ‘teacher.’ It’s definitely never been boring; although at times I have thought I have extended myself beyond my ‘growing edge’ and have wondered how I would cope.

I have coped and more than that my professional practice has benefited. I never cease to be amazed by the events that transpire to bring me home.[2]

I practice under the banner of Bruce Staley & Friends, Consultants to Management. The demands of the responsibilities associated with management are exciting. They act as a crucible where the character of the person is revealed, tested and shaped.

My own character has been exposed, tested and shaped by the professional experiences arising from my work with aspiring or experienced managers.


A clear statement of purpose has helped me define my business activity and services. Although a little cloudy initially the statement of purpose of Bruce Staley & Friends has become clearer.

Bruce Staley & Friends provides career development services to facilitate the competence of people in management.

These services come in the form of career consultation, executive mentoring, conflict coaching, management training and project management.


The Parthenon, the many-columned ancient Greek building provides an insight into building a private practice – Ensure you have several sources (columns) of income to sustain the business.

The services of Bruce Staley & Friends have evolved, out of the stated purpose, where they now include career development, conflict coaching, executive mentoring, management training and project management.


A good friend advised me to build around me a ‘Board of Management.’ The people do not have to know that they are on your ‘Board of Management’; however they need to people with who you can confidently and confidentially discuss aspects of your business.

I conducted a management development program with a professional colleague for a local government organisation. His insights and encouragement were invaluable, contributed enormously to the success of the program. We were invited back over a period of four years to run the program once again.


Two aspects of the word ‘professional’ need to be considered. The first is ongoing professional development and the second is the need to adopt professional procedures.

While I am an avid supporter of professional development programs such as the excellent program provided by the AACC I look forward to each day and the learning it may bring.

Professional development is an attitude rather than something that I have to do or others provide for my benefit. Every day brings with it the opportunity to learn something new, a situation presented by a client, an article in a journal, a comment from a professional colleague, or a tense moment in a negotiation.

The activities associated with conducting a private practice need to be managed professionally. These include membership of relevant professional associations, appropriate insurance coverage, such as public liability and professional indemnity, maintaining a diary, fees, taxation, GST, planning and promotion of the business.


At times I’ve thought, “I’ve been everywhere man.” Consulting has taken me into workplaces across Australia, and across a variety of industries, education, financial services, retail, transport and distribution, manufacturing, local government, health services, hospitality and tourism, personal services and agriculture.

Where are the services of your private going to be delivered?

How will prospective clients gain access to your services?

I’ve loosely adopted the four ‘P’s’ of the marketing mix, Product (or service), Place (or distribution), Price and Promotion. You’ll find the latter two if you look carefully and I’ve added a few others.

Finally, the value of Perseverance cannot be ignored.

The Apostle Paul wrote that perseverance produces character, and character, hope.[3]

(This article was published in the Australian Career Practicioner, national Magazine of the Australian Association of Career Counsellors Inc, Volume 18 Number 3 Winter 2007)

[1] Larson Bruce, 1968, Living on the Growing Edge, Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan

[2] Adapted from the movie, Apollo 13, distributed by Universal Studies, 1995. Words ascribed to Commander Jim Lovell portrayed by Tom Hanks.

[3] Romans 5:4