What Is Business Risk? Definition, Factors, and Examples.



What Is Business Risk?

Risks for business are the risk that a firm or organization is exposed to factor(s) that could lower its earnings or cause the company to fall. Anything that could affect a company’s capability to reach its financial objectives is an enterprise risk. Many elements can come together to create a risk for a business. Sometimes, a company’s top management or leadership creates circumstances where the company is more at risk of risk.

But, often, the source of risk is outside the business. This is why a company can’t shield itself from threats completely. There are, however, ways to minimize the risk of operating companies. Most businesses do this by adopting an approach to managing risk.

Understanding Business Risk

If a company is faced with an excessive amount of risk to its business and uncertainty, it could hinder its capacity to provide shareholders and investors with sufficient returns. For instance, an executive of the business could make decisions that affect the company’s profits. The CEO might need help to accurately predict certain things that will happen shortly and cause the company to suffer losses or even be unable to succeed.

The risk of business is affected by a variety of diverse factors, which include:

  • Demand, preferences of consumers, and volume of sales
  • Per-unit cost and input costs
  • Competition
  • The overall economic conditions
  • Regulations of the government

A business with a greater degree of risk to business could choose to implement an investment structure with lower debt ratios to ensure it can fulfill its financial obligations at all times. If a debt ratio is high and there is a drop in revenues, the business may not be able to service its debt (which could lead to bankruptcy). However, when revenue increases, an organization with a low debt ratio enjoys higher earnings and can pay its debts.

Analysts employ four fundamental ratios to determine risk: the contribution margin operating leverage effect, financial leverage effect, and total leverage effect. For more intricate calculations, analysts can use the use of statistical techniques. Risks for business typically occur in four ways: strategic risk, operational risk, compliance risk as well as reputational risk.


Types of Business Risk

Strategic Risk

Strategic risk is when a business fails to follow the business plan or strategy. If a company doesn’t adhere to its business strategy, its goal is less effective as time passes, and it might struggle to achieve its stated objectives. If, for instance, Walmart strategically puts itself in the position of a low-cost supplier and Target decides to cut Walmart’s prices, it becomes a risk that is strategic for Walmart.

Compliance Risk

The other type the name knows is a business risk or compliance risk. Chances of compliance are most prevalent in sectors and industries that are highly controlled. For instance, there is a 3-tier distribution system in the wine business that requires wholesalers in the U.S. to sell wine to an individual retailer (who then sells the wine to customers). The system prevents the wineries from selling products directly to retailers in certain states.

Numerous U.S. states do not have this kind of distribution system. Compliance risk is when a company cannot comprehend the unique needs of the state it operates within. In this scenario, the company is in danger of failing to comply with state-specific distribution laws.


Operational Risk

The third form of risk for business is operational risk. This type of risk can be found within the company, particularly when the day-to-day operations of an organization fail to meet. In 2012, for instance, the global bank HSBC faced a significant operational risk. Consequently, it was hit with an enormous fine due to the U.S. Department of Justice, as its anti-money-laundering operations team, could not stop the flow of money through Mexico.

Reputational Risk

If a company’s reputation is damaged, either due to an incident caused by an earlier business risk or a new occurrence that could result in the possibility of losing customers, its reputation suffers. The image of HSBC was sustained in the aftermath of the penalty handed out for its poor anti-money laundering procedures.

Special Considerations

Business risks can only be partially prevented because it’s uncertain. There are, however, several ways that companies can reduce the negative impact of all kinds of trouble for business, including operational, compliance, strategic, and reputational risks.

The first step brands usually take to pinpoint all the risks in their business plan. They aren’t only external risks; they can also originate from within the company. Making the necessary changes to reduce the risks as soon they appear is essential. Management must devise an approach to manage any identified risks before they become dangerous.

After the leadership of a business has developed an approach to address the risk, it’s crucial to take the additional step of recording everything to be prepared if the same issue re-occurs since business risk can be unpredictable and repeated throughout the business.


In the end, many companies implement the risk management approach. It can be implemented before the company begins operations or following an unexpected setback. The ideal risk management plan will assist the company in becoming more prepared to handle the risks that may arise. The plan should include tried and tested procedures implemented if trouble arises.

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