Running a business requires taking risk. Managing risk in business creates value. Here we outline how to manage risk to drive value. If your revenues are project oriented with little opportunity for repeat business, or you operate in an industry with low barriers to entry, or a people dependent business such as consulting, advertising or staffing, then what can you do to realize as much value as possible?
Manage business risks
Mitigate the risks inherent in the business model by focusing on the following:
Differentiate your Product or Service
While at first glance, it may seem hard to differentiate a business in a well established and competitive sector, keeping an eye on consumer trends combined with creative marketing can often carve out a new profitable niche and present a tremendous growth opportunity. Lululemon Athletica in the apparel sector and Chipotle Mexican Grill in fast food are examples of effective differentiation strategies.
Grow and Strengthen Customer Relationships
Reduce the unpredictability of project revenues by nurturing customer relationships. If you can show that the same customers use your services several years in a row then you have an argument for revenue predictability. If that list of customers is more than twenty then you have an argument for revenue diversity. Length of customer relationships is also a good indicator of a high quality product/service.
Focus on Execution Excellence
In a service business, it comes down to attracting and keeping the best personnel in order to deliver service excellence. Human resources is a complex, multi-dimensional field and should include processes for recruiting, role definition and responsibility, position incentives and benefits, periodic feedback, and documentation and procedures to fill gaps in the case of unexpected departures.
Add Products and Markets
A one product company is riskier than a product line company. A local company is riskier than one with a multi-national presence. While it is easy to over-extend yourself, consider managed product and geographical growth to mitigate risk.
Cultivate Multiple Supplier Relationships
Don’t let your business become “captive” to a sole supplier of component parts. Cultivate multiple supplier relationships to reduce supplier power and dependence.
Analyze your profit margin to see where you want to drive your sales — to higher-margin areas. A trend of improving margins as a result of operational efficiencies and returns to scale will result in a higher valuation.
Protect Intellectual Property
IP can be patented, copyrighted or treated as a trade secret. Identify the IP in your business and make sure it is protected and properly owned.
Build Your Brand
Spend time on all of the above will build your reputation and your brand.
The following chart summarizes various characteristics that drive company value.
Business Risk Management Plan
Managing risk in business should be pursued by way of implementing formal processes. A business with formal processes, systems and documentation reduces the dependence on individual talent and can quickly respond to exogenous shocks. Items such as Service Level Agreements (“SLAs”), marketing plans, job descriptions, employment contracts, confidentiality agreements, professional codes of conduct, organization charts, etc. institutionalize a business. Documented processes are transferable value. Capturing and transferring knowledge will make the business more sustainable and more valuable.
If potential buyers feel that a business has a high risk profile, they will either not buy it, reduce the price, or make a portion of the price contingent upon the business’s future performance. Managing operating risk will increase the sale-ability, even for small, niche and project oriented businesses.
Recommended Further Reading
For more on the right buyer for your business, see: Finding the Right Buyer
To familiarize yourself with the M&A process, see: The Sale Process