About Josh Salter

Josh Salter is the communications manager at RIMS.

The Risk of Being Too Delicious

Shockwaves were felt around the wing-eating world last week, when Buffalo Wild Wings announced it will be discontinuing its Tuesday night half-priced wing promotion.

According to reports, the franchise’s decision was a difficult one as the promotion was “a major driver of traffic” and “boosted same-store sales” for some locations. Ultimately, the deal was just too delicious. With wing prices on the rise (jumping 11 cents per pound in a year), the promotion started to impact the company’s bottom line. In fact, the food chain blamed the historically high wing prices for its 63% profit drop in the second quarter, turning the crowd-pleasing promotion into a losing proposition.

It is an interesting risk that many organizations, especially in retail, must take, however. How do organizations develop a promotion that attracts new customers and entices existing ones to visit more frequently, purchase something new or add a service without causing any financial hardships? And, perhaps more importantly, at what point is the promotion no longer worth it?

The majority of promotions go off without a hitch. It is probably safe to say that most of them have either a positive or neutral effect. Companies must be prepared, however, for those rare deals that negatively impact businesses’ finances or reputation.

While Buffalo Wild Wings’ risk management approach to this promotion may have intervened in time to save them from a worse fate, others have not been so lucky.

Take, for example, seafood chain Red Lobster’s 2003 all-you-can-eat summer crab leg special that ultimately put the company in hot water. Parent company Darden’s then Chief Executive Joe Lee was quoted as saying, “It wasn’t the second helping, it was the third that hurt.” “And the fourth,” then Red Lobster President Dick Rivera added on a conference call to investors.

The deal lasted a bit too long and was linked to the wipeout of $405.9 million in stock value in a single session, with stock prices dropping 12%.

Red Lobster isn’t alone. In 2009, Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to introduce its new grilled chicken option by hiring mega star Oprah Winfrey to make an announcement during her show, giving away an online voucher for a free lunch. About 16 million people printed out the voucher. Stores ran out of food and eventually stopped accepting the coupon. Even worse, competitors jumped in and offered discounted meals to voucher holders.

Then there was McDonald’s, which gave away MP3 players with viruses; an unapproved promotion code for free Domino’s pizza was leaked to 10,000 people; and the obvious consequences of a 10 cent beer night at a Cleveland Indians game. What could go wrong? (Hint: chaos ensued.)

Risk management can play a vital role in supporting marketing initiatives, like the creation of an effective promotion. And, for practitioners managing an enterprise risk management program, it highlights just how important collaboration between different business areas really is.

Companies can be blinded by opportunities that include increased traffic, return customers and add-on purchases. Some deals are just too good to be true—not just for the consumer, but the company making the offer as well. It is apparent that the downside of the promotion must be carefully assessed and that tolerance limits be set in order to know when to pull the plug on a deal.

When developing a risk tolerance statement for a promotion, it’s important to also realize that sometimes the financial losses associated with a promotion is not the only thing to look at and might not be a bad thing at all.

Take a look at Costco, that refuses to raise the price on its $4.99 rotisserie chicken and $1.50 hotdogs.

“I can only tell you what history has shown us: When others were raising their chicken prices from $4.99 to $5.99, we were willing to eat, if you will, $30 to $40 million a year in gross margin by keeping it at $4.99,” the bulk wholesale giant’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told the Seattle Times in 2015.

The philosophy is rather simple and has worked for Costco. Cheap, delicious rotisserie chicken brings people into their warehouses. And, hopefully, on their way to pick up dinner, they will also grab new patio furniture, a television, golf clubs, a 64 oz. jar of mayonnaise and a five pound bag of cashews. The wholesaler banks on statistics indicating that consumers spend on average $136 each time they enter the warehouse.

Developing a promotion should not be done on a whim. Careful consideration must be taken before the promotion is introduced. Many different groups within the organization should be included in the conversation…and risk management can take the lead on bringing those groups together and initiating the dialogue.

So, before the company serves up that next mouth-watering deal, risk management must realize that it has a real opportunity to support value creation and show its worth way before the pot boils over.

Can ORSA Work For All Businesses?

In addition to impacting the way countless organizations conduct business, the 2008 financial crisis was an awakening for regulators charged with reviewing and setting the rules that shape the way organizations assume risk. Insurance, perhaps the riskiest business of them all, did not go unscathed.

Not only are insurers responsible for managing their own internal risks, but careful calculations and guidelines are built into their business models to ensure that the risks fall within set parameters. Regulators will argue, however, that this wasn’t always the case.

Own Risk Solvency Assessment (ORSA) was adopted and now serves as an internal process for insurers to assess their risk management processes and make sure that, under severe scenarios, they remains solvent.

U.S. insurers required to perform an ORSA must file a confidential summary report with their lead state’s department of insurance.  The assessment aims to demonstrate and document the insurer’s ability to:

  • Withstand financial and economic stress with a quantitative and qualitative assessment of exposures
  • Effectively apply enterprise risk management (ERM) to support decisions
  • Provide insights and assurance to external stakeholders

While ORSA is requirement for insurers, a new study by RIMS and the Property Casualty Insurers Association, Communicating the Value of Enterprise Risk Management: The Benefits of Developing an Own Risk and Solvency Assessment Report, maintains that ORSA can be used for all organizations looking to strengthen their ERM function.

According to the report:

Whether or not required by regulation or standard-setting bodies, documenting the following internal practices is a worthwhile endeavor for any company in any sector to utilize in their goal to preserve and create value:

  • Enterprise risk management capabilities

  • A solid understanding of the risks that can occur at catastrophic levels related to the chosen strategy

  • Validation that the entity has adequately considered such risks and has plans in place to address those risks and remain viable.

The connection between the ORSA regulation imposed on insurers and the development of an ERM program within an organization outside of the insurance industry is apparent.

ORSA and ERM both require the organization to strengthen communication between business functions. Breaking down those silos are key to uncovering business risk, but perhaps more importantly, is the interconnectedness of those risks.

Secondly, similar to ERM in non-insurance companies, ORSA requires risk management to document its findings, processes and strategies. Such documentation allows for the process of managing risks to be effectively communicated to operations, senior leadership, regulators and stakeholders. Additionally, documentation enhances monitoring efforts, the ability to make changes to the program and is a benefit that allows ERM to reach a “repeatable” maturity level as defined by the RIMS Risk Maturity Model.

Developing an ERM program has become a priority for many organizations as senior leaders recognize the value of having their entire organization thinking, talking and incorporating risk management into their work. Examining and implementing ORSA strategies can be an effective way for risk professionals to get their ERM program off the ground and operational.

Galaxy Quest: Assessing Space Commercialization

Student-space
If a bunch of kids can launch a satellite into space, why can’t you?

As reported by the Washington Post, seventh-graders at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington, Texas are the first grade school students to send a satellite into orbit. The CubeSat – built by the children – was launched into space and will begin beaming photos from 200 miles above the Earth’s surface to an antenna on the school’s library.

This learning experience is remarkable for the kids, but what does it mean for the future of commercial industries in space? While commercialization of space tourism and satellite technology is already happening, is this emerging risk something that industries can afford to overlook?

The Space Foundation’s 2015 “The Space Report” found that commercial activities in space continue to increase and now make up 76% of the global space economy. The report adds that revenue from commercial space products and services was dominated by direct-to-home television services, making up more than three-quarters of the global commercial space products and services market.
Space budgets

Allianz published an article that outlines some of the challenges of space insurance and space risks, from the pre-launch phases to in orbit operations and satellite insurance.

“Losing a spacecraft is by far not the only risk,” the article points out. “Potential interruptions of a satellite’s service in our globalized work are just as problematic for spacecraft users, individual transponders users such as TV channels and Internet providers, but also for banks, car manufacturers and large industries that use telecommunications networks.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA / AST) Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016, “The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29%, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity.”

The report highlights the progress China has made with its space program, noting the number of orbital launches conducted by the country has steadily increased each year since 2010, with a peak of 19 launches in 2012. The findings highlight China’s commitment to commercial space applications, specifically stating that the data “points to a robust future in Chinese spaceflight.”

For many industries, the idea of planning for the risks involved in a space expansion might seem too far off to devote resources. But, with commercial airliners, telecommunications companies, international markets like China and even a bunch of seventh-graders already investing in opportunities in space, it might be time to reconsider the possibilities and the risks.

Unsuitable Risk

Earlier this week, famed chairman George Zimmer was relieved of his duties at Men’s Wearhouse.

According to a story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Zimmer’s quest to turn Men’s Wearhouse from a public entity to a private one was met with heavy resistance from his board. It wasn’t the suggestion that led to his termination but rather his persistence on the matter combined with his inability to acquiesce power to a newly appointed management team.

Did Zimmer and Men’s Wearhouse fail to utilize their risk management arm for a proper risk assessment to determine the advantages and disadvantages of the move? Could the clothing giant have missed an opportunity to leverage a risk (risk of going private) and instead hastily choosing to implement a mitigation strategy that included handing the move’s champion his walking papers?

According to a letter released by Zimmer yesterday, they did. In it he says:

“Rather than thoughtfully evaluating the idea or even checking the market to see what value might be created through such strategic alternatives, the Board quickly and without the assistance of financial advisors simply rejected the idea, refused to even discuss the topic or permit me to collect and present to the board any information about its possibilities and feasibility.”

It’s a case of he said, she said. We might never know to the extent this strategic vision was reviewed or the full reasoning for the company’s decision.

But what is apparent is the undeniable value of communication throughout all levels of the organization – especially among leaders behind those boardroom doors.