Risks are normal in any business. Even the most successful businesses today had to deal with certain threats in the past that almost laid their success on the line. Sometimes, it is tempting to wish that your business no longer has to take any calculated risk and be as smooth sailing as possible, but that just cannot be.
In the real world, business is tantamount to risk-taking and you can’t just wish to keep risks at bay. Why? Because business does not work that way. Taking risks is necessary in any business for without it, growth is never possible. Remember, it is through risks that you get to meet new clients, discover new sectors and learn new things. Without risks, business loses its essence.
People in the business sector are pretty familiar with the term risk management. By definition, risk refers to the probability of an event and its consequences. When you manage risks, you use certain methods, processes and tools to deal with these risks.
Running a business involves different types of risk, and while some risks can go only as far as causing serious but manageable damage to your business, there are risks that are beyond repair and have the potential to destroy your business. That is why businesses, no matter how big or small, need to be equipped with the right methods and tools to prepare for these risks before they strike. While preparing for risks does not guarantee 100% that your business will be free from risks, such preparations can moderate their impacts on your business.
Risk management involves determining what could go wrong with your business and evaluating which of the possible risks you should deal with. After doing so, you implement strategies that will help you manage those risks. Managing risks before they strike is the most cost-effective way of dealing with them.
Potential Business Risks
Before you try to understand Risk Management as a process, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the different types of risk that businesses usually face.
- Strategic Risks. Strategic risks are risks that have to do with how you operate in the industry where your business is in. These risks usually arise from changes in demand, mergers and acquisitions and other changes in the industry. For instance, a big U.S. company is acquiring your major Canadian competitor. If the acquisition activity happens, then your competitor will have the potential to have a distribution arm in the U.S. So, what should you do?
Now that you know that this potential acquisition activity can pose a risk on your business, you have to prepare how you will respond once the risk is already at hand. As you do this, you may consider researching if there is any U.S. company that is big enough to do the acquisition and which among your Canadian competitors might be a target of this U.S. company.
- Compliance Risks. As the name suggests, these risks have to do with your need to comply with certain regulations, as well as your need to act in such a way that your customers and potential investors will be pleased. To manage compliance risks, you must consider whether certain safety or health legislations can force charges in your business or increase your overheads.
When it comes to legislative risks, you may want to ask yourself if certain legislations, particularly tax laws, can make your products and services less marketable. For instance, some tobacco businesses were threatened when legislations pushing up the costs of tobacco products were passed. The significant increase in the cost of their products reduced their appeal and made it difficult for tobacco business owners to promote and sell their products.
- Financial Risks. Financial risks are associated with the overall finances of your business, including your financial systems and the transactions that your business enters into. Some examples of financial risks are customers who did not pay you for your services, or the growing interest of your business loan. But how do you prevent such risks?
The first and most important thing you should do to prepare your business for financial risks is by regularly examining your financial operations, most especially your cash flow. Being too dependent on one customer is not good for your business, because if that customer fails to pay you, that could have some serious implications when it comes to the viability of your business. Aside from cash flow, some of the other things you should examine are the ones who owe you money, the way you extend credit to your customers, and the things you should do to recover your owed money.
- Operational Risks. Operational risks are the risks that have to do with the operations and administrative procedures taken by your business, including recruitment of employees, supply chain, IT systems, accounting controls, regulations and the composition of your board.
As you run your business, it is necessary for you to examine each aspect of your operations and make provisions for every possible risk that may turn up. For instance, being too reliant on just one supplier may pose operational risks for your business. Imagine if your sole supplier goes out of business. Where does that leave you? You can minimize this risk by looking for some other suppliers that you can do business with and not depending too much on the one that you currently have.
One of the most common operational risks today has to do with information security. As a business, you keep track of necessary information. That is why part of your responsibilities as a business owner is ensuring that every bit of information is protected from hackers who may break into your IT system and steal valuable data from you. Many business owners have experienced losing large sums of money from their accounts to hackers due to poorly secured IT systems.
Aspects of the Risk Management Process
The process of managing risks is one of the most crucial parts of any business. It is often considered an indispensable part of strategic management because it helps you identify the risks confronting your business and address them. By doing so, you are able to increase the likelihood of your business’ success.
The risk management process basically involves micro processes, such as systematically identifying the risks facing your business, evaluating the possibility of the occurrence of an event, understanding how you should respond to these events, setting up systems to tackle the consequences of these events, and monitoring how effective or ineffective your risk management processes are.
How Risk Management Benefits Your Business
While risk management does not totally guarantee the success of your business, it makes the risks manageable enough. Among the common results of the risk management process are the following:
- It allows you to allocate your resources more efficiently
- It allows you to project or expect what may go wrong with your business, hence minimizing the impact of risks and preventing considerable financial loss
- It helps improve your planning and decision-making
- It increases the chances that you will be able to conduct your business according to your business plan and budget
If you are the type of business owner who always loves to try something new, knowing how to manage risks efficiently can benefit your business a lot. For instance, you plan on launching a new product. Two of the risks that you should consider in this case are the competitors that follow you in the market and the existing technologies that can possibly make your new product redundant.
Part of the risk management process is risk evaluation. This technique particularly lets you identify the significance of potential risks to your business and decide whether you are going to accept these risks or prevent them. But how do you evaluate these risks?
Evaluating risks basically involves identifying them and ranking them afterwards. You can do this by determining the consequence and probability of each risk, such as asking yourself if their consequences and probabilities are low, medium or high. Businesses that efficiently assess their risks can attest to the advantages of this practice.
It helps to include a risk evaluation in your business plan, in which you determine the risks that can impact your objectives and assess them in the light of costs, concerns of investors and even legal requirements. In cases when the cost of preventing a potential risk is too high, not preventing the risk at all makes more sense. So, it is important that you assess these risks and weigh which will cost you more—preventing them or mitigating them once they’re already at hand?
In evaluating potential risks and assessing them based on cost, concerns and legal requirements, it is best to plot a risk map and include there the likelihood of the risk’s occurrence. In this risk map, you rate each risk on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning that the risk is of major concern to your business. You can also include in the risk map the probability scale of each risk, which you do by assessing if the risk:
- Is very likely to occur
- Has some chance of occurrence
- Has small chance of occurrence, or
- Is not likely to occur
By plotting this map, you are easily able to visualize all the possible risks in relation to each other and see the extent of damage they can do to your business.
Four Ways to Deal with Risks
Since risks are normal in every business, they are not supposed to make you nervous. As a business owner, you have all the freedom to plan around these risks, limit their impacts and prevent the worst from happening. You only have four options when dealing with risks—mitigate it, avoid it, transfer it, or accept it.
- Mitigating the Risk. To mitigate a potential risk, you should come up with contingency plans before the risky situation arrives. So, when it’s already there, you can easily carry out your Plan B. For example, you have an upcoming promotional event for your new product and you expect several investors to attend. Since the event is set in an open area, the risk is that it might rain. Rain can be considered a risk since that may affect the number of people to attend the event. To mitigate the risk, you may consider renting a large tent to shelter your guests or giving out free umbrellas to them.
- Avoiding the Risk. There are certain instances when you find the risk consequences to be too high. In such cases, it is best for you to cancel that high-risk initiative altogether. One example would be a product launch that could exhaust all of your company’s finances. Instead of letting this new product cripple your business financially, cancel the launch and avoid the risk of being broke.
- Transferring the Risk. This strategy is very common in insurances. Since it involves passing the risk on to someone else, it mainly applies to risks and situations that you can put in black and white, such as in contracts. A good example is insuring yourself against the risk of a car accident. In this case, your insurer will carry the financial risk in case you get caught in such an accident.
- Accepting the Risk. In managing risks, remember that you always have the choice of doing nothing. However, you have to make every conscious effort possible to understand the risk and to decide whether it is fine to accept it. If you think the risk is insignificant and won’t have any impact on your business, then you can choose to take no action at all.
When you manage potential risks to your business, you can take advantage of any of these four strategies independently or in combination. Just like in any endeavor, business requires careful planning. Even if you think that a risk is not likely to happen, it is still best to prepare yourself for it.