Entrepreneurship means taking risks, such as launching new products, entering new markets, or using new processes. Because this involves uncertainty, there are always chances that things will go wrong.
Our experience at the CFO Centre has been that the most successful companies take the time to understand the downside of the risks they take, and then find a way to compensate for those downsides.
As the CFO Cente’s book “Scale Up” says, a lot of business owners spend an unhealthy amount of time worrying about what might go wrong, but don’t have a formal risk management framework in place. One of the most dangerous positions to be in is not knowing what might harm you. That’s why “Scale Up” suggests starting with a comprehensive risk analysis, to identify potential risks to your business.
This post talks about how you can understand the risks your company faces, and develop a way to manage those risks.
Why is business risk analysis important to you?
Business risk analysis is an essential part of the planning process. It reveals all the hidden hazards, which occupy the business owner’s mind on a subconscious level but which have not been carefully considered and documented on a conscious level.
Not understanding the risks your company faces can bring your company to its knees, as a 2011 report, ‘The Road to Ruin’ from Cass Business School revealed.
Alan Punter, a visiting Professor of Risk Finance at Cass Business School, said the result of a detailed analysis of 18 business crises during which enterprises failed revealed that directors were often unaware of the risks they faced.
“Seven of the firms collapsed and three had to be rescued by the state while most of the rest suffered large losses and significant damage to their reputations,” he said.
“About 20 Chief Executives and Chairmen subsequently lost their jobs, and many Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) were removed or resigned in the aftermath of the crises. In almost all cases, the companies and/or board members personally were fined, and executives were given prison sentences in four cases.”
“One of our main goals was to identify whether these failures were random or had elements in common.”
“And our conclusion? To quote Paul Hopkin of Airmic, the Risk Management Association that commissioned the research: ‘This report makes clear that there is a pattern to the apparently disconnected circumstances that cause companies in completely different areas to fail. In simple terms, directors are too often blind to the risks they face.’”
A lot of business owners spend an unhealthy amount of their time worrying about what might go wrong but don’t have a formal risk management framework in place. It is dangerous not knowing what might go wrong.
What are the risks facing your business?
Business risks can be broken up into the following:
- Strategic risks – risks that are associated with operating in a particular industry
- Compliance risks – risks that are associated with the need to comply with laws and regulations.
- Financial risks – risks that are associated with the financial structure of your business, the transactions your business makes, and the financial systems you have in place
- Operational risks – risks that are associated with your business’ operational and administrative procedures.
- Market/Environmental risks – external risks that a company has little control over such as major storms or natural disasters, the global financial crisis, changes in government legislation or policies.
The ‘shoot, fire, aim’ approach favored by many entrepreneurs is great for making things happen quickly but often jeopardizes the long-term stability of the business.
What is needed is balance.
Once the business understands the risks, it means that it can move forward decisively and confidently. It’s hard to do this when there is a cloud of confusion hanging over the business.
Where to start?
You need to assess your business and identify potential risks. Once you understand the extent of possible risks, you will be able to develop cost-effective and realistic strategies for dealing with them. Consider your critical business activities, including your staff, key services and resources, and the things that could affect them (for example, illness, natural disaster, power failures, etc.). Doing this assessment will help you to work out which aspects of your business could not operate without.
Identify the risks
Look at your business plan and determine what you cannot do without and what type of incidents could have an adverse impact on those areas. Ask yourself whether the risks are internal or external. When, how, why and where are risks likely to occur in your business? Who might be affected or involved if an accident occurs?
Assess your processes
Evaluate your work processes (use inspections, checklists, and flow charts). Identify each step in your processes and think about the associated risks. What would stop each step from happening? How would that affect the rest of the process?
Analyzing the level of risk
Once you’ve identified risks relating to your business, you’ll need to analyze their likelihood and consequences, and then come up with options for managing them. You need to separate small risks that may be acceptable from significant risks that must be managed immediately.
You need to consider:
- How important each activity is to your business
- The amount of control you have over the risk
- Potential losses to your business
- The benefits or opportunities presented by the risk
By managing the company’s risk profile and the risk profiles of the shareholders the whole business can be brought into alignment and can operate as a unit rather than as a set of individual parts.
This is actually one of the most critical roles in any business and your part-time CFO will support and guide you through the process.
At the CFO Centre, our CFOs have an intimate understanding of every conceivable risk that growing businesses face. This means that we can help you build a much stronger business by knowing how to navigate through the growth stages of the business cycle confident that you are equipped to meet the challenges as they present themselves.
It is never possible to eliminate all risks in a business, but it is possible to create a framework and implement systems which lower your exposure to risk. That, in turn, allows you to focus primarily on growing your business.
Knowing that you have a framework in place to mitigate risk means that you can free up time and mental energy.
Lower your risk today
Let one of The CFO Centre’s part-time CFOs help you with business risk analysis. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time CFOs just click here.
 ‘The Road to Ruin’, Punter, Alan, Financial Director, www.financialdirector.co.uk, Aug 18, 2011
 Source: http://toolkit.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au