A colleague of mine and I had a funny exchange the other day. He manages our company’s business continuity planning program while I lead our enterprise risk function. We were talking about the difficulty of describing our jobs to non-business people. For that matter, even business people have a hard time grasping the nature of our respective lines of work.
His job function is relatively easy to understand: it involves all the advanced prep needed to keep a business running in the event of a disaster, natural or man-made. Mine is similar but broader in scope: it means anticipating all of the highly probable hazards that could befall a company (e.g., strategic blunders, talent shortages, data breaches, loss of customers, you name it….) and that would negatively impact it in such a significant way it cripples the company’s competitive position or even its ability to remain in business. Anticipating what could very likely happen allows you to take smart steps now to prevent, avoid, or minimize the risk. The larger the company, the bigger the impact, and the more complexities you need to consider.
Now of course, any hazard is also an opportunity to show customers and investors that you are prepared to handle whatever comes your way. It can be a strategic advantage to your business if you deliberately position it that way. Not a lot do.
Sometimes I cringe when people ask me what I do for a living. It’s not like “director of enterprise risk” rings a bell and is immediately obvious to anyone. I could tell people I’m a coach, or a teacher, or simply a businesswoman and all of it would be true. But it’s not quite right.
So this is where the conversation with my colleague got good: when he described what he did for a living to one of his friends, the friend remarked,
“So you’re telling me you’re a professional mom, but for business. You think of all the things that could go wrong. You make sure your kids check in when they’re doing something big or facing danger on their own. And you ask them if they’re wearing clean underwear before they leave the house.”
Nailed it. 🤣
Gonna have to use that explanation from now on.