Dear CEO – What’s Your 400 Year Business Plan?

I first heard of the 400 year business plan when my husband, Robert Perschel, Executive Director, New England Forestry Foundation, attended ProSilva – Close to Nature forestry conference in France. City girl that I am, I stayed in Paris. At our reunion, and his birthday dinner, Bob talked about a demonstration forest near Limousin, where the trees are grown in accordance with a 400 year business plan and forest management scheme.

Oak barrels from the 400 year business plan


Barrels used to make cognac are produced from the oak trees in this forest. The trees require a 200 year growth cycle. This produces tough, coarse, porous wood and specific chemical compounds that impart desired flavors and colors to the cognac. To sustain the integrity of the forest, the oaks are planted at different times. Over the course of 400 years, all the trees in existence now will have been harvested. New ones will have been planted in their place. This is the rationale for the 400 year forest management scheme and business plan.

What If You, The Leader, Had a 400 Year Business Plan?

What would you grow?

A people forest?

A culture?

Might you:

  • Identify and then create the culture that grows people for the long term health of your company and future generations?
  • Hire leaders who understand and are committed to creating these conditions?
  • Charge these leaders with ensuring the next generation of leaders do the same?

Imagine how you might position yourself and your company differently, care more deeply, think more expansively, if you knew that what you and your company are creating now, will exist, or have an effect, 400 years into the future.

With that in mind…

Think about your 400 year business plan

Who will reap the fruits of you labor?

Who will live with the intended and the unintended outcomes?

What will you leave them?

Draft the plan.

Plant the seeds.

Grow the culture.

Tend the forest.

Walk the woods.

Germane Consulting – 400 Year Business Plan

We have just begun to think about this. We have expanded our view and are taking the following into consideration.

  • In addition to the people our leader-clients work with, the leaders’ children are heirs to the lessons we impart. We enlarge our circle. Look across a wider landscape.
  • Deep curiosity, hunger to learn, and the desire to evolve may be Germane Consulting’s most important legacies and outcomes
  • Be bold. Teach boldness. Be humble. Teach humility.

Why bold? What we do today matters well into the future.
Why humble? Don’t be so impressed with our own brilliance. What we consider brilliant today, may be laughable to future generations. Our deep and enacted desire to learn, to grow, and to change, may well be what matters most. It is our legacy. Becoming enamored with and attached to the ideas themselves, is an obstacle to that legacy.

P.S. As I wrote the lines above, Cynthia called. She is a client
who leaves in five days to assume a new role as VP Operations, Europe and the MIddle East. She called to say her father had a heart atttack, and she wants to talk about it. Her father is recovering rapidly. But in this gift of uncanny timing, she sees the orbit of love her parents have created and in which they live and love each other. She is shifting the order of what is important in her life.

Germane Consulting is considering what is most important in our work. We are creating our 400 year business plan.

Have some thoughts about your 400 year business plan?

We’d love to hear them.

(Client stories on this site: The essence is true. The events are real. The characters are fictionalized to protect the real person’s identity.)


Other items of interest:

, , , , ,

5 Responses to Dear CEO – What’s Your 400 Year Business Plan?

  1. Heather Stubbs August 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    My 400 year business plan?
    * to teach school kids, starting with little children, to value themselves enough to know they have the right to speak in front of others, and let them grow up knowing the skills of speaking up
    * to help people understand that speaking and deep listening are two sides of the same skill
    * to help people discover that speaking is about genuinely connecting with others, and there’s absolutely nothing to fear in that.

  2. Duncan Brodie January 8, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Interesting piece. It resonates for me as I truly believe that the real test of leadership is creating sustained success over the long term.

    Duncan Brodie

    • Anne Perschel January 8, 2013 at 6:39 am #

      Thank you Duncan. I hope you are leading and building for the long term.


  1. » Great Leadership: The January 2013 Leadership Development Carnival: Best of 2012 Edition - January 7, 2013

    […] enthusiasm, work ethic, and cooperation).”   Anne Perschel, from Germane Insights, picked Dear CEO: What’s Your 400 Year Business Plan?   “What can leaders learn from the makers of fine cognac? How to grow a company that remains […]

  2. MAPping Company Success - January 12, 2013

    […] Perschel, from Germane Insights, picked Dear CEO: What’s Your 400 Year Business Plan? “What can leaders learn from the makers of fine cognac? How to grow a company that remains […]

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge