How to manage risks when scaling a business, growing a brand, or becoming successful...
As someone who spent the first part of my working life in an arena of high physical risk, but with guaranteed financial security, I have total respect and admiration for people who have the personal courage to start their own businesses. There is a reason why most people don’t do it. When you start your own thing, it can become frightening and all-consuming: background logistics of insurance, accountants, bookkeepers, marketing and the taxman – the list never ends. With a massive amount of resilience and a certain level of luck, founders begin to scale their businesses... Often this increases both their own profile and that of the business as a necessary part of growth. Through no fault of their own, as the business scales, so does their risk.
I have no idea how to do the vast majority of the amazing things that the entrepreneurs, founders and start-ups we work with have done. We do not know how to create a fintech start up, invent a new concierge platform, paint a masterpiece or play world class sport, but what we do know is to do is protect these people. Just as I am, thankfully, not expected to be able to put my modelling knowledge to the test to open an agency, we do not expect you to be able to mitigate all reputational, legal, and financial risks.
While much knowledge can be acquired as you go in entrepreneurship, playing catch-up and learning on-the-go as threats begin to intensify can be a dangerous game, so we often come onboard to assist at earlier stages to provide risk management, rather than crisis management, services. It became clear to me that, traditionally, the security industry was not very accessible to young entrepreneurs, smaller businesses, start-ups or solopreneurs, so I decided that we would create a company to bridge that gap.
We have developed a process which manages the scaling risk as businesses grow, company and personal brands get established, public visibility increases and an overt perception of success expands. It is, sadly, an unforeseen consequence for founders and entrepreneurs that a bi-product of their hard work and ingenuity is a growth of personal and business risk due to the increased attention from both the media and criminality. The end of distance has only served to exacerbate this, as small businesses have become targets for global criminality who see them as an “easy option” in comparison to bigger companies with established safeguards and infrastructure, such as Cyber Soc’s, access management systems and established staff training measures. Often security only becomes a concern to a growing business when something has gone terribly wrong: they have suffered a cyber-attack, been victims of invoice fraud, lost the IP they believed they owned due to an unscrupulous investor, or a civil or criminal allegation in the personal life of someone linked to the company has caused catastrophic reputational brand damage. Here are a few risk sources that we have been working to mitigate:
A significant level of risk from criminality that effects our clients is cyber risk. SMEs, start-ups and people who are perceived to have sudden success or wealth are now targeted by criminals globally. This is especially true of growing businesses that are perceived to pay out large invoices or are key parts of a chain linked to potentially more high value targets. We have dealt with incidents related to ransomware, malware, phone security, email breaches, information security and invoice fraud. Having been offered the opportunities to white label several cyber security products, we found that none appeared as good as the bespoke security we had sourced for our own business. As such, we now offer the same cyber security protection plans as the ones we ourselves use. The advantage of being a small business is that we are agile and have been able to incorporate new technology from trusted contacts, such as Traced to protect our clients.
Environmental Impact Dishonesty
As a business, we always look for the “next thing” that people and businesses are going to misrepresent and lie about. We are fully aware that environmental impact is becoming a key element that consumers have started to examine more carefully. As a company’s own climate footprint (CCAP) can be directly be affected by key suppliers and stakeholders, it is highly likely that companies will attempt to gain market and brand advantage through environmental dishonesty. It will be time consuming and expensive for “legacy” companies to move towards net zero, but the consumer will increasingly make choices based on this. There have already been significant examples of environmental dishonesty globally, and there is little doubt that perceived involvement with companies who are caught out will damage brands or businesses of all sizes, especially if part of your own USP is based on a strong “green” brand. Therefore, as part of our due diligence on your business partners, suppliers, or investors, we take into consideration their environmental standing and the legitimacy of their eco-friendly claims.
Increasingly, the world does not differentiate between a personal and business brand. Founders can see a business disintegrate almost overnight because of a minor criminal, civil or reputational allegation, which would have had almost no effect on most people’s lives. We can manage the whole process from introducing you to our network of innovative genuinely client-focused lawyers, investigating and “front loading” your case to managing the brand damage on social media. We have extensive contacts within the PR industry to help manage the reputational damage, as well as using reverse due diligence to demonstrate that adverse media is not a true representation of the person nor his business.
If you subscribe to the idea that business success is an iceberg and people only see the part above the waterline, you understand that a big part below the waves for all businesses is risk. Not to worry though, as our experience and network can help you manage and cope with the large variety of dangers that lurk beneath the surface.