Identifying business risk
There are many different types of business risk. Risks can be internal and external to your business. They can also directly or indirectly affect your business's ability to operate. Risks can be hazard-based (e.g. chemical spills), uncertainty-based (e.g. natural disasters) or associated with opportunities (e.g. taking them up or ignoring them). The Australian standard defines risk as 'the chance of something happening that will have an impact on objectives'.
Types of risk
The types of risk you face are specific to your business and its objectives. To effectively manage risk you should prepare for internal and external scenarios that may directly affect your business.
Direct risks to your business
Some common risk categories are:
- natural disasters, such as floods, storms, bushfires and drought
- pandemic, such as coronavirus (COVID-19), human influenza, swine flu or bird flu
- legal, such as insurance issues, resolving disputes, contractual breaches, non-compliance with regulations, and liabilities
- global events, such as pandemics, political instability and interruptions to air traffic
- technology, such as computer network failures and problems associated with using outdated equipment
- regulatory and government policy changes, such as water restrictions, quarantine restrictions, carbon emission restrictions and tax
- environmental, such as climate change, chemical spills and pollution
- work health and safety, such as serious injury or illness, dangerous incidents, accidents caused by materials, equipment, or location of your work
- property and equipment, such as damage from natural disasters, burst water pipes, robbery and vandalism
- security, such as theft, fraud, loss of intellectual property, terrorism, extortion and cyber security and fraud
- economic and financial, such as global financial events, interest rate increases, cash flow shortages, customers not paying, rapid growth and rising costs
- staffing, such as industrial relations issues, human error, conflict management, loss of key staff and difficulty filling vacancies
- suppliers, such as issues within their business or industry resulting in failure or interruptions to the supply chain of products or raw materials
- market, such as changes in consumer preference and increased competition
- utilities and services, such as failures or interruptions to the delivery of your power, water, transport and telecommunications.
You should use this list as a starting point for thinking broadly about the types of risks that could impact your business. You may discover that you need to consider other important areas of risk that are not listed here. Remember that perceived risks may also impact your business.
Indirect risks to your business
People often make the mistake of overlooking things that don't directly impact their business and are therefore unprepared to deal with change. For example, while your business might not be directly affected by a natural disaster, you may still suffer if it affects your suppliers, customers or general location.
Consider how these scenarios could affect your business:
- If your suppliers are affected, you may run out of the products you sell, or the materials you need to make products.
- If your customers are personally affected, their priorities may change and you could experience a reduced demand for your products or services.
- If your general location is affected, you and your customers may not be able to access your premises, or your utilities could be affected. For example, you could lose power, which could mean you:
- will not be able to operate your business
- may need to throw out any perishable goods and replace them, which can be costly.
Managing risk in your business
The process of identifying risks, assessing risks and developing strategies to manage risks is known as risk management. A risk management plan is an essential part of any business as it helps you to understand potential risks to your business and identify ways to minimise them or recover from their impacts.
- Learn about business continuity planning, which can help your business manage risks and recover from situations if they do happen.
- View a short webisode to learn how to identify business risk.
- Find out how you can use the PPRR risk management model to reduce the impact an incident has on your business.
- Learn more about the Australian standard for risk management.
- Read about personal safety in the workplace.
- Last reviewed: 21 May 2021
- Last updated: 11 May 2022