Business risk is the risk that the business will falter and the entire investment of time and money the owner placed in the business will be lost. For most business owners the motivation for starting a business is that at some point there will be a wealth building event from business ownership. But it is a flip of the coin – half of businesses started will fail. If you own an interest in the typical small to medium sized business, there is a greater than fifty percent chance the business will fail in the first five years.1 The four most common reasons for failure: (1) poor marketing (forecasting and adequate budget), (2) inadequate management (founders understand production or services but fail to appropriately oversee employees), (3) financing (lack of working capital), and (4) lack of effective business planning.2 From my years of experience as a business consultant, I can tell you that if you engage in effective business planning, your business will not fail. If you are effectively planning, you will not make the mistakes involved in the first three reasons for business failure. Effective business planning, like most worthwhile endeavors, is not easy but for those who learn how it can be what makes wealth building possible.

The wealth building event occurs where the investment of time and money in the business is converted into cash in the owner’s personal account subject to investment risk not business risk. Compare business risk to personal investment risk. Business risk is inherent to the operation of a business – it is the uncertainty about whether a company will be successful and generate a profit. Where the business does not perform well, money and time spent on the business will be lost. For most small to medium sized businesses, the risk cannot be diversified over different markets and products. Investment risk is the risk that an investment will lose value. This can happen for a number of reasons, including factors like overall market fluctuations or inflation. However, a investment portfolio can be diversified and be managed to avoid loss of capital. While there is still a risk of loss with investment risk, as compared to business risk, the risk is greatly reduced. If money derived from the business is converted from business risk to personal investment risk, the possibility of financial independence over time becomes more likely.

The secret of planning is that you have to start at the end and work to the beginning. If you want a wealth building event in five years, envision what that looks like. For a business owner, it will most likely be a sale of the business interest for maximum value, removing the value built up in the business at business risk to cash in your personal account at investment risk. That basic strategy can be the beginning of the effective business planning that will make such a wealth building event possible. I call that strategy Prior Diligence, and I describe how to create and execute that strategy and business plan in detail at my Substack site Owning a Business (

Prior Diligence is a strategy that is the basis for planning to accomplish the result of realizing the highest possible value from ownership of a business interest. The components of Prior Diligence are: separation of the owner from management, the presence of co-owners, the implementation of a buy-sell agreement among the owners, a sale to an unrelated outside buyer, and management of the business with dynamic planning. All of these components are described with more detail in the archives of Owning a Business.

You can begin the planning process at any time, no matter where you are with your business. The important thing is that if you are not planning now, you need to start. The sooner you start, the sooner you will experience the wealth building event.