Improved Corporate Risk Awareness In 20 Questions

When managing the risk within your organization, it is important to ask the right questions. While some companies may prefer not to focus on “what can go wrong”, successful companies understand the delicate balance of risk and opportunity. Finding the right balance between the two can improve efficiency and maximize profitability. Here are 20 questions to get your organization started:

  1. How much does our organization have in reserve capital for unexpected incidents? Is it adequate to self-insure any remaining risk?
  2. Who or what is my business/revenue most reliant on (a product, it’s c-suite, machinery, suppliers, etc)? What would happen if they were affected/interrupted? What are our existing business continuity plans to prevent financial damages following a hazard loss at a main location?
  3. What are our businesses’ biggest weaknesses (cyber-security, untrained employees, employee theft, stock drops, etc)? What are our biggest fears in terms of litigation against us?
  4. What is our business worth? Might we become a target or considered a deep pocket in the event of a lawsuit?
  5. How established is our business/brand? Would we be able to survive bad PR and customer fall off following a publicized lawsuit or data breach?
  6. In reviewing prior losses, claims and customer complaints, are there any trends? Do these trends indicate quality control concerns, need for managerial training, improved internal controls, etc.
  7. Does the organization have any disgruntled shareholders, employees, etc? Or has it inadvertently created any economic hardship for any of its vendors, employees, officers, etc, that might look for recourse?
  8. How much of our risk is being mitigated through contractual transfer? How well crafted are our contracts including any employee handbooks, corporate charter/indemnification agreements (protecting our directors), etc? When was the last time they were reviewed?
  9. Does our company have a plan for: perpetuation (if needed), locating and hiring qualified employees or executives? How quickly can that be done? 
  10. What trends are affecting my industry and competitors? What “hot topics” are industry associations addressing? What losses/lawsuits have our competitors sustained?
  11. Are we performing any services that significantly significantly challenge our existing capabilities? What could be the potential for an error, oversight, failure to deliver, or under performing?
  12. If providing a product, what are the potential consequences of a product failure? What have we done to minimize the likelihood?
  13. What are our company’s future plans? Are we expanding into new services/products/industries? Do we expect to be growing, downsizing, or expanding into other countries any time soon? What additional risk may this pose? Is financing going to be required? Do we have coverage (such as D&O) in place to protect against claims from investors, shareholders or creditors?
  14. When working with 3rd party providers or suppliers, do we have a formal procedures for qualifying them? Are we comfortable with their competency?
  15. What is the biggest threat to our profit margins? Price of commodities, fluctuations in foreign exchange rates, closing of a dependent property? How is that risk being managed?
  16. What risks may stem from our employees (aside from injury)? Qui Tam whistleblower claims, internal theft or fraud, wage and hour claims, wrongful termination, etc.
  17. What is our advertising exposure? Might we be subject to any newly passed FTC rules or regulations, infringement claims or false advertising claims?
  18. What internal risk management controls does our company currently employ and how do we ensure compliance? These can include checklists, audits, compliance reviews, etc.
  19. What are our existing risks and what does my existing insurance portfolio cover? What am I choosing to “self-insure”? Are limits and retentions adequate? Has a benchmark been performed to verify those limits are in line with our peers?
  20. How can we get creative with managing our risk? What else can we achieve? For example, Employee training can reduce risk while improving quality and efficiency. Trade credit insurance, which protects companies from customer insolvency can also help achieve lower loan rates. And, in addition to protecting the company’s balance sheet, directors and officers’ insurance can also help attract qualified executives. 

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