Protecting your business

In June 2018, promising Melbourne start-up Unlockd went into voluntary administration blaming Google. This was not a risk Unlockd or its high-profile backers saw coming.

But that's the thing with business risk, it can strike when you least expect it.

Unlockd had developed an app that rewarded users for watching ads when they unlocked their phone. Just as they were planning an initial public offering (IPO), Google threatened to remove their app from its play store. This was a fatal blow because the app only worked on Google android phones.

Unlockd started legal proceedings, accusing Google of anti-competitive conduct, but it was too late to save the IPO. Without replacement capital, the company had no choice but to wind up.

In an increasingly global and connected business environment, new risks are emerging alongside more traditional ones. Here are some suggestions on ways you can identify and mitigate risks to your business.

Cyber security

Cyber incidents topped the risk list for Australian businesses this year for the first time, according to the annual Allianz Risk Barometer. Cyber risk can be anything from ransomware to hackers, data theft, privacy breaches and denial of service attacks.

How to prepare: Cyber insurance is now readily available, but prevention is equally important. This is not just the responsibility of the IT person, everyone in the business needs to take responsibility. All it takes is a laptop left at the airport lounge to compromise your systems. Visit the government's Australian Cyber Security Centre website to report an incident or for safety tips.

Changes in legislation

Governments are under ongoing pressure to protect consumers and business with new regulations. From privacy and data protection laws affecting global corporations such as Facebook, to local Airbnb hosts in some locations facing new restrictions on how many nights they can accept paying guests.

What to do: A person or department within the business should have responsibility for monitoring local, state and federal government legislation as part of their job description.

Macroeconomic developments

In an increasingly global marketplace, the prospect of a trade war between the US and China is a major threat to Australian businesses. A slowdown in China's economy could detrimentally impact sales of everything from Australian wine to inbound tourism operators.

Fluctuations in the Australian dollar, commodity prices, house prices and even the weather also have the potential to stimulate or depress economic activity.

What to do: These things are largely outside your control, but you can keep an eye on developments with the potential to impact your business. For example businesses that rely on one product, service, customer or market, might diversify or explore new sales avenues.

Market disruption

Digital disruption and the effects of local and global competition are existential threats to many businesses these days. Like the taxi drivers who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a taxi licence only to be sidelined by Uber drivers picking up fares in their own car.

What to do: It's vital to stay up-to-date with changes affecting your industry so you are not left behind. Many larger companies are collaborating with start-ups or developing agile in-house teams to explore new ways of doing business and engaging with customers. Smaller businesses need to constantly learn new skills, hire people with the skills they need or outsource.

Loss of reputation or brand value

The Internet has also increased the risk of damage to business reputations and brands. While positive reviews from sites that allow customers to review and rate your business can contribute strongly to business growth, negative reviews can hurt. Poor reviews are not always justified as the process is open to exploitation by people with a grievance and even competitors masquerading as customers.

What to do: The best way to prevent the risk is to promote a positive workplace culture, best industry practices and a focus on great customer experience at every contact point.

The actual risks you face will depend on the nature of your business and the environment you operate in. Insurance is part of the solution but just as important is awareness. If you would like to discuss your business risk and potential solutions, give us a call.

i https://unlockd.com/statement/

ii https://www.allianz.com.au/media/news/2018/allianz-risk-barometer-cyber-incidents-dominate-risk-landscape-for-companies-of-all-sizes-and-sectors-in-2018

iii https://www.acsc.gov.au/