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RISK MANAGEMENT TOOL KIT FOR SMEs
SOURCE RISK MITIGATION
Risks posed by customers
Question: Is the business highly-dependent on a small number of major customers? For example, you could have one customer who generates 65 per cent or more of total revenue, or you could have a group five customers who collectively generate over 65 per cent of total revenue. Do you have customers that take up a lot of your time but are less profitable than other customers? Risk: If the business relies on a small number of major customers, profit and cash flow may be affected in the short term (one to six months) if one of them stops yielding revenue. ·      locking in major customers through long-term service contracts, regularly visiting them, or continually asking their views about the business’s products and services

·      spreading the risk by developing smaller, existing customers so they become larger customers seeking new, profitable customers

·      finding lower-cost ways of servicing the less profitable customers

Risks posed by suppliers
Question: Is the business highly dependent on a small number of major suppliers? For example, do you have one supplier that provides 30 per cent or more of the total product requirements, or is there a supplier whose failure to supply could stop the business? Risk: If the business depends on a small number of major suppliers, production, profits and cash flow could be affected one of them fails or stops dealing with the business.

 

·      locking in major suppliers through long-term service contracts

·      seeking alternative suppliers capable of supplying similar items

Risks posed by staff
Question: Do employees see the business as a short-term employment option? For example, would they describe it as ‘a good place to learn for a while’ or ‘a nursery for the industry’?

 

 

Question: Are there employees in the business who are

critical to its success?

 

 

 

Question: Do some employees largely govern or control dealings with key suppliers or customers? For example, some employes may control who your business sells its goods or services, or pricing.

 

Question: Do staff face occupational health and safety (OH&S) risks? For example, are they working in a dirty or hazardous environment, or do they have to travel extensively?

 

Risk: If the business is seen as a short-term employer, high staff turnover could result in disruption to the business and the expense of finding and training new staff who won’t deliver a return to the business if they also leave after a short time.

Risk: If an employee is critical to the business’s success, then sales and profits may suffer if the employee sets up a business in competition or goes to work for a competitor.

 

Risk: If some employees are largely autonomous when

dealing with key suppliers or customers, there is a risk of

fraud or collusion, or there could be significant disruption to the business if they leave.

 

 

Risk: If staff work in an unsafe environment, the business is at risk of fines and penalties and, the absenteeism, injury or even the death of an employee.

 

·      implementing selections procedures that increase the probability of finding the right staff for the business

 

 

 

 

·      putting in place confidentiality agreements and / or reasonable restraint of trade agreements signed by key staff or where appropriate all staff

·      implementing a robust performance Development system for communication of performance expectations and goals, monitoring performance and setting remuneration

 

·      providing ongoing training for staff consistent with the needs of the business

·      allocating several people to fulfill key tasks and provide backup in the event of illness or sudden departure

·      rotating employees through various functions or departments to familiarise them with other areas of the business implementing suitable policies to minimize risks.

·      using equity interests, profit-sharing or other incentives to help retain key personnel and let them share the success they create for the business.

·      reviewing the period of notice required of staff who resign. Once again, be careful with this as it could have unintended legal consequences

Risks posed by the business premises and its location
Question: How dependent is the business on its current location?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Is the business growing strongly at present, or is it relatively stable? If it is growing strongly, how long can this be expected to continue for and how big will the premises need to be in two, five or 10 years’ time?

Risk: If the business depends significantly on its location to generate sales, a move to premises outside the immediate vicinity of the current location may disrupt the business by affecting customer, staff and supplier access. Another risk of being highly dependent on the premises is that in the event of a fire, flood or other disaster, the business may not be able to restart operating if the premises (including stock, equipment, materials and records) are destroyed.

 

Risk: Unless plans have been made to expand the current premises, the business may not be able to grow to its full potential and it could be overtaken by competitors.

·      identifying a number of suitable alternative premises which would suit customers, suppliers and staff

·      where the premises suit the business’s long-term needs, consider securing a long-term lease or right of first option when the lease expires

·      managing the business to predict future space requirements early

·      only businesses that are established, have good prospects and are growing should consider purchasing a property and then only if the property has sufficient capacity to allow for future expansion, otherwise it is preferable to rent. Renting also helps to preserve working capital for business operations

Threats to goodwill and reputation
Question: How exposed is the business to a threat to its reputation or goodwill? For example, what would happen if there were a product recall, or if the business delivered bad customer service or advice or there was a major fraud?

 

Risk: If there is a large-scale product recall, a fraud, or other similar event, there would be a lot of bad publicity. This could cause immediate distress to the business including putting it to the trouble and expense of reworking. It would probably also cause longer‑term damage to the business’s reputation. ·      incorporating robust review processes and quality assurance systems to avoid a situation that may damage the business’s reputation

·      investing in research and development and keeping up-to-date with technological advances

·      compulsory training and development programs for staff

Risks posed by information technology
Question: To what extent does the business rely on information technology (IT)? Have you ever noticed how little work is done in an office when ‘the server is down’ or power is temporarily disconnected? The level of risk created by using IT increases as the business becomes more reliant on it.

 

Risk: If the business is heavily reliant on IT, the business might not be able to operate without it. There are many other risk areas associated with IT, including:

·      IT service delivery: do all the software applications work as intended? Are they all accurate?

·      IT solution delivery: do you try to integrate IT solutions into daily work processes, so that the business runs more efficiently and predictably?

·      IT benefit realisation: consider not only the cost of an application, but also consider the cost of not implementing that application. Some IT outlays are essential simply to keep pace with others in the industry

·      protecting laptops and desktops

·      keeping data safe by performing backups and storing those backups offsite

·      using the internet safely

·      protecting networks

·      protecting servers

·      securing the line of business applications

·      ensuring appropriate IT support is available within an acceptable timeframe

·      having an uninterrupted power supply unit

·      conducting appropriate IT training for staff

Risks posed by financial transactions: Financial transactions create risks for companies. They can be classified as liquidity, foreign exchange, interest rate, commodity price and credit risks. Each will be examined separately below. Skip any which do not apply to your business.
Liquidity risk

Question: Does the business have enough funds to pay its debts as they fall due?

 

 

Risk: If the business does not have enough funds, or is running out of money, there could be significant risks to the business and to the owner or directors who might become personally responsible for the debts of the business. If liquidity is not improved, the chances getting a loan will be drastically reduced. ·      managing cash flow on a daily, weekly and monthly basis by monitoring the flow of cash in and out of the business

·      forecasting cash flow to identify any periods when it is not strong. Good forecasting will include ‘what if’ analysis; for example, ‘What if my sales were to drop by 5 per cent?’

·      avoid diversion of short term funds to long term use

·      maintaining a strong relationship with a banker or financial institution to ensure they understand the business and are kept up-to-date with potential loan requirements

·      monitoring market conditions to anticipate seasonal fluctuations in cash flows

·      preparing aged debtor reports to monitor debtor collections (and regularly contacting the slow payers)

Credit risk

Question: Does the business sell its products or services on credit?

 

 

Risk: If products and services are sold on credit there is a risk that debtors will be unable to pay for them. This might result in either slow receipt of cash or even the need to write off a bad debt

 

·      checking the credit status of the customer before making the sale

·      checking publicly available documents to verify that the customer’s business is real and to find out who is behind the business

·      be clear upfront and have suitable documentation about terms & conditions at least email acknowledgement

·      imposing credit limits to restrict your firm’s overall exposure;

·      including a ‘retention of title’ clause for the goods you supply

·      maintaining strong relationships with the debtor to ensure their current liquidity status is always known

Foreign exchange risk

Question: Does the business use foreign currency to buy raw materials or equipment, or receive it from sales of its products and services to overseas customers?

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Risk: If the business does use and receive foreign currency in this way, then it is exposed to fluctuations in the value of foreign currency which, if not properly managed, can lead to the business making unexpected gains or losses. The size of this risk depends on the size of transactions, the number of transactions and the length of time between ordering and paying for the goods or services

 

·      consulting your bank for assistance in managing foreign exchange exposure

·      matching foreign currency revenues with foreign currency expenses through a EEFC account

·      buying forward contract.

·      buying or selling a foreign currency option or similar

Interest rate risk

Question: How dependent is the business on borrowed funds or income generated from interest-bearing deposits (e.g. bank accounts or investment accounts)?

 

 

Risk: If the business is dependent on borrowed funds or

income generated from savings, movements in interest rates will affect the overall profitability of the business through increases in interest expenses or reductions in income from interest.

 

 

·      consulting your bank for assistance in managing interest rate exposure

·      borrowing or investing at a fixed rate to provide certainty of interest expenses or income

·      matching interest income against interest expense to net the exposure

·      utilising available bank products that may help manage exposure

Commodity price risk

Question: Is a key input or output of the business buying or selling commodities?

 

 

Potential risk: If buying or selling commodities is a key input or output of the business, fluctuations in commodity prices can adversely affect the business’s financial performance.

 

 

·      entering into fixed price contracts with suppliers or customers

·      using a number of financial market instruments like futures and derivatives

Risks posed by competitors
Question: Do competitors pose a threat to the business? For example, are competitors likely to start up nearby? Are they likely to significantly reduce their prices? Are they likely to be first to market with a new product? Are they likely to expand their business or to find new ways of getting their products to market?

New online channels of engagement with customers may affect the business

Risk: Virtually every business has competitors. However, if competitors (current and potential) pose a significant threat to the business, then the viability of the business is at risk.

 

·      continuing to build on relationships with clients and the local community. Providing great service as a way of combating competitors!

·      researching industry trends, and adopting new products and services – or ways of delivering those products and services – to customers

·      investing money in developing new products and services

·      protecting intellectual property assets by registering them where possible (trademarks, designs, copyright, patents)

·      continually monitoring competitors, including the prices they charge

Risks posed by the market or the economy
Question: Is the business exposed to risks from changing tastes and trends or from the impacts of an economic downturn? For example, while the business itself may be relatively immune from an economic downturn, a downturn may impact on your customer base.

 

Risk: If the business is at risk from changing tastes and trends, or from an economic downturn, the viability of the business is at risk.

 

·      researching consumer trends and tastes so that the business can respond to change

·      continually testing the market to see what products and services consumers prefer. This provides an understanding of changing consumer sentiment during changes to the economic cycle

·      promoting products and services that sell better during an economic downturn (these can be determined by testing the market)

·      promoting stock or services that sell well and are profitable

·      using financial statements to benchmark financial and operational performance against industry averages

Unexpected exit of the business owner
Question: What would happen to the business if the owner or one of the partners died or became incapacitated? If there is no will or succession plan in place, would the business close, would it be inherited and run by someone inexperienced, or would it be sold?

 

Risk: If there is no plan to deal with the death or incapacity of the business’s owner or one of the partners in a partnership, the business might have to close or be sold to a competitor to avoid putting undue pressure on the remaining owners or new owners.

 

·      consulting advisers who can assist in business succession, wills and estate planning

·      preparing a business succession plan and a will that is consistent with the plan

·      implementing appropriate insurance that provides income or a capital sum in the event of the death or incapacity of the owner or a key employee

·      where there are two or more unrelated owners in a business, consider a buy/sell agreement and funding agreement for the eventual transfer of the business

·      documenting key processes and critical information so that other people can continue to run the business

·      training employees so that more than one person knows how to perform each task

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