What Risks Does an Entrepreneur Face?

Most entrepreneurs are risk-takers by nature, or at minimum calculated visionaries with a clear plan of action to launch a new product or service to fill a gap in the industry. On a personal level, many entrepreneurs take big risks to leave stable jobs to throw their efforts (and sometimes their own money) into launching a business.

For entrepreneurs, there is no guaranteed monthly income, no guarantee of success, and spending time with family and friends can be a challenge in the early days of launching a company. Here are some of the most common risks that every entrepreneur and investor should evaluate and minimize before starting a business.

Key Takeaways

  • Entrepreneurs face multiple risks such as bankruptcy, financial risk, competitive risks, environmental risks, reputational risks, and political and economic risks.
  • Entrepreneurs must plan wisely in terms of budgeting and show investors that they are considering risks by creating a realistic business plan.
  • Entrepreneurs should also consider technology changes as a risk factor.
  • Market demand is unpredictable as consumer trends can change rapidly, creating problems for entrepreneurs.

Financial Risk

An entrepreneur will need funds to launch a business either in the form of loans from investors, their own savings, or funds from family. The founder will have to put their own "skin in the game." Any new business should have a financial plan within the overall business plan showing income projections, how much cash will be required to break even, and the expected return for investors in the first five-year timeframe. Failure to accurately plan could mean that the entrepreneur risks bankruptcy, and investors get nothing.

Entrepreneurs face many risks when they launch a venture, and they should take measures to insure against those that are most likely to affect them.

Strategic Risk

An impressive business plan will appeal to investors. However, we live in a dynamic and fast-paced world where strategies can become outdated quickly. Changes in the market or the business environment can mean that a chosen strategy is the wrong one, and a company might struggle to reach its benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Technology Risk 

New technologies are constantly emerging, particularly in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Some of these changes are characterized as "paradigm shifts" or "disruptive" technologies. To be competitive, a new company may have to invest heavily in new systems and processes, which could drastically affect the bottom line.

Market Risk

Many factors can affect the market for a product or service. The ups and downs of the economy and new market trends pose a risk to new businesses, and a certain product might be popular one year but not the next. For example, if the economy slumps, people are less inclined to buy luxury products or nonessentials. If a competitor launches a similar product at a lower price, the competitor might steal market share. Entrepreneurs should perform a market analysis that assesses market factors, the demand for a product or service, and customer behavior.

Competitive Risk 

An entrepreneur should always be aware of its competitors. If there are no competitors at all, this could indicate that there is no demand for a product. If there are a few larger competitors, the market might be saturated, or, the company might struggle to compete. Additionally, entrepreneurs with new ideas and innovations should protect intellectual property by seeking patents to protect themselves from competitors.

Reputational Risk

A business's reputation is everything, and this can be particularly so when a new business is launched and customers have preconceived expectations. If a new company disappoints consumers in the initial stages, it may never gain traction. Social media plays a huge role in business reputation and word-of-mouth marketing. One tweet or negative post from a disgruntled customer can lead to huge losses in revenue. Reputational risk can be managed with a strategy that communicates product information and builds relationships with consumers and other stakeholders.

Environmental, Political, and Economic Risk 

Some things cannot be controlled by a good business plan or the right insurance. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, wars, and recessions are all risks that companies and new entrepreneurs may face. There may be a strong market for a product in an under-developed country, but these countries can be unstable and unsafe, or logistics, tax rates, or tariffs might make trade difficult depending on the political climate at any point in time.

Also, some business sectors have historically high failure rates, and entrepreneurs in these sectors may find it difficult to find investors. These sectors include food service, retail, and consulting.

70%

The percentage of small businesses launched in 2018 that made it to their third year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bottom Line

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that of the small businesses that were started in 2018, 79.4% made it to their second year (2019), and 68.2% made it to the third year (2020). Entrepreneurs should expect to make some mistakes, some of which will be costly. However, with the right planning, funding, and flexibility, businesses have a better chance of succeeding.

Article Sources

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Table 7. Survival of private sector establishments by opening year." Accessed June 11, 2021.