They say that your 20’s are about career discernment, 30’s – overcoming failure, 40’s – accumulating money, 50’s – accumulating power, and 60’s – guarding reputation.

While there is no perfect age for leadership, strategic planning is always about managing risk. Age tends to dampen our risk appetite. It’s a reasonable feeling. I started a company which failed after two years when I was 35 years old. It took a while to get hungry again – but I had time as a salad while my risk appetite recovered.

If you’re 63 and your best judgment leads to failure, there may not be time to recover your reputation. That is understandable. Unhappily, your aversion to risk can increase incremental business failure. “There is tendency for risk management process to fail incrementally over a long period of time.”  (Fadun, 2013:231)

The people who lead are often at the age where their risk appetite keeps their company from the table of opportunity.  “Risk is an essential part of business because firms cannot operate without taking risks.” (Ibid, 225)

If you are in that exact situation, then Strategic Planning empowers you to the leadership need of the hour without forcing your risk appetite to accept what it cannot tolerate.

  • Your low appetite Strategic Plan will choose one or two big ideas but have unusual sensitivity to choose what NOT to do. Many younger leaders fail because they try to do everything. Sears is floundering as its management tries anything. They briefly attempted to be a pawn broker and then purchased “4,000 charcoal smokers and grills, almost 10,500 beer-can chicken roasters” (Duprey, 2016:1) What a tragedy.
  • Your Strategic Plan will force the big ideas to yearly and quarterly goals and to daily reporting by team members on how much they moved the success needle. You will be less tolerant of team actions that are not tied to the Strategic Plan.
  • Your Strategic Plan will probably hoard more cash so that you are succeeding in your stewardship while setting up another future win after you leave. Platinum reputation anyone?

We tend to fail by our strengths. We overuse them and then eat the bitter fruit. Overusing your low risk appetite will keep you from noticing as the company table has less and less food for anyone. Claim your low risk appetite, write your Strategic Plan to leverage it’s perspective – and make your later career so good that you bore the kids with all the stories in retirement!

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Fadun, Olajide. “Risk Management and Risk Management Failure: Lessons for Business Enterprises.” International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences 3.2 (2013): 225-39. Web.

Duprey, Rich. “Kmart to Sell Liquidated Goods: How Long Before Sears Merch Appears? — The Motley Fool.” The Motley Fool. N.p., 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.

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