Be Wary of External Factors That Affect Your Business

Apart from the many challenging tasks that accompany the launching, growth, and maturing of a business, business owners have to expand their scope of view to watch the world for external factors affecting their business.  

With a continually changing economy, the focus on consumer confidence, global competition for sourcing and sales, e-business, economic trends, and government intervention, today’s business owners have their hands full just to survive.   Reality awakes us to the fact that the number of predator factors affecting your business does not end with this short list.

Recall that the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania took the lives of thousands of people, and caused billions of dollars of property damage.   But the impact of this attack was not limited to those direct in the line of fire.   The entire U.S. economy was severely affected with immeasurable lost wages, sales, and services.   Naturally, the majority of these losses were felt by small business owners, many of which failed as a direct result of these events.

Similarly, the financial chaos on Wall Street that played out during 2008 might have taken down Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, and Wachovia, but out of the headlines it was just as bad to thousands of restaurants, bars, dry cleaners, housecleaners, and other small enterprises that served the employees of these and other firms that crashed.

These catastrophic events are easy to relate to in terms of how the ripple effects can be devastating to small business owners, and obviously there is no defense against them.   Recognize that sometimes your best business efforts can fail based on events totally unrelated to business.

Most business owners are more prone to focus on more obvious events that they see as immediate external threats that negatively impact the business with lower sales or profits. These threats may come in form of new competition, technology advances (requiring more investment), and even economic trends that cannot be controlled.

But more subtle, external factors may come closer to home in the form of local zoning changes, planned highway routes, and regulatory changes.   External factors can gravely change your business market, cost of doing business, accessibility, or profitability overnight. All have good intentions behind them, but the price of a failed small business may be the unintended consequence.

While you can’t always be successful, you can usually do something to modify, delay or stop these kinds of situations by simply engaging in the process and being part of the deliberations. But unless you know about what is going on in your industry, state or city, you may get hit without knowing you were targeted.  

How to keep up your guard? Read the newspaper, join a trade association, vote locally, and talk to your peers regularly.   No one else can or will protect your business interests – it’s up to you to take responsibility for defending your turf.

While following current events and business news does not assure you that your business will be protected, awareness and familiarity of the world around you can prepare you to interpret and react to these events. And a smarter and timely reaction can lower their impact on your business.   How you react may vary from ‘life as usual’ to a postponement of expansion plans, but either way, a pro-active response is usually better than none.

Keep your head up for how your business can be impacted by these external forces and being prepared to make necessary adjustments when they occur.

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