Based on current Wall Street and general economic trends, many of us will need to take a closer look at the business strategies we developed or re-confirmed this year. What potential risks have we overlooked?
In business, strategy must address any change in trends that affects our industry. The more significant the trend, the more urgent is the need for our attention and action. The new trends today for many industries are contraction and fear.
First, the fear.
This is America. We’re a nation of doers and we always work through our challenges, sometimes on sheer determination alone. Way back in 1776 we had rancorous partisan politics and a fierce financial crisis yet still managed to forge a great, great nation in spite of it all.
Second, the contraction.
It’s far from over. Lehman Bros. was given an immediate vote of no confidence for many reasons, not the least was that no one could identify the financial risk associated with the millions (!!) of dubious credit swaps it has on its books. Plus it made zero strategic sense for its competitors to bail it out. There are lots of banking companies with credit swaps and other unquantifiable risks on their books. According to the WSJ there now are credit swaps on $62 trillion of debt, up from $144 billion about a decade ago. Very few people, if anyone, understand the liability these pose to the health of our financial system.
Imagine for a moment that your company is a ‘Lehman Brothers’. What do you have buried that’s going to be exposed when the tide recedes? What risks have you taken with your customers, products, services and markets that could make you an ‘untouchable’ to your competitors if you needed a buyout?
Now is the time to re-look at your strategy (on a monthly basis if need be). If you don’t have a model, use this one:
1. What are the trends in my industry?
2. What’s driving the trends?
3. What are my competitors doing about the trends?
4. What are we doing about the trends?
5. What should we be doing about the trends?
Then do it.