Using a Basic Counter-Terrorism Skill to Enhance your Business Value

Using a Basic Counter-Terrorism Skill to Enhance your Business Value

How practicing Situational Awareness can protect you against the unexpected as well as increase your business value.

Situational Awareness1

One of the most important tools in counter terrorism is the practice of situational awareness by security and protective services to stop an attack before it even begins. Situational awareness is a constant risk based monitoring of the environment to identify, deter and/or interdict hostile actors before they can launch an attack.

It is a discipline to avoid unpleasant surprises by recognising threats as they begin. Situational Awareness can be practiced by any of us in our day to day lives and not only for the risk of terrorism, but for any daily risk such as potential accident hazards while driving a car. 

The levels below show any of the mental states we might go through when faced with a sudden threat. Practicing situational awareness protects us against a sudden emergency surprising us, and launching us from “Tuned Out” (level 1) to “Comatose” (level 5) thereby causing us to “freeze” and to become “mentally paralysed”.

Graphic of the Five Situational Awareness Levels. Five Bars from top to bottom
Comatose - Not able to function
High Alert - Confirmed threat, must act
Focused Awareness - Carefully observing a potential threat
Relaxed Awareness - Enjoying life while paying attention
Tuned Out - Not Paying Attention
How to Practice Situational Awareness from Scott Stewart

Situational Awareness and the Attack Cycle

Attacks do not just happen out of thin air.  There is a consistent process that is followed by both terrorists and the corner street thief.  The timings and duration of each phase might differ based on the attack, but an attack will pretty much follow the process shown below.

Attack Cycle graphic.   Shows a wheel starting at top with 
Target Identification and Selection..then
Planning and Prepeartion.. then
Deployment Then
Attack with a red circle around it.. then
Escape, suicide or survive  then
Exploitation  and finally back to beginning...  Target ID and selection
The Importance of Understanding the Attack Cycle by Scott Stewart

Situational Awareness comes to play in the Surveillance phase often during Target Identification and Planning and Preparation. This is where the situationally aware security officer might notice the suspicious automobile circling the embassy over and over. He marks down the license plate and sends it to the police who do a check and find out the car was stolen.  They come and arrest the driver and in the subsequent interrogations they uncover a terror cell that was doing reconnaissance for a bomb attack the following week.

You might use situational awareness when walking on the dark street corner and noticing the shady individual across the street changing direction and starting to come towards you as you approach a dark alley.  You turn immediately back and go into the well lighted main street with pedestrians. The shady character stops and returns back into the shadows and disappears.

Needless to say, your best defense in any attack cycle occurs in identifying and neutralising or avoiding the threat in the surveillance phase. This is why counter terrorism relies heavily on situational awareness and interrupting any potential attack before it even begins.  

Often when an actual attack begins it may be too late or extremely difficult to protect and/ or flee from the situation. Quickly moving away from the potential mugger to a well lighted area, while he is still across the street, ensures a much higher probability of safety than having to fight the mugger one on one in the dark alley after he grabs you.

What does Situational Awareness look like in business?

Besides the obvious, (i.e. being situationally aware so that no one robs your business), having situational awareness in business means that you are aware of the full value of your business and its key drivers. With this awareness, you will have a more accurate perception of your ever-changing situation and prospects in your market and industry. This will allow you to protect, grow and eventually capture the full value of your business.

Being unaware of your valuation (“Tuned out” in terms of Situational Awareness) means having insufficient insight into key aspects, such as your actual ability to exit the business, its capital structure, and even the proper insurance coverage needed to protect it. This leaves you extremely vulnerable to any “attack” or non-business related crisis (such as death, disability, or divorce) that nevertheless can force you to “panic” sell or exit your business at little to no value.

Imagine you own a growing profitable business, but one that is heavily reliant upon your personal relationships with the key customers. What happens if you get sick and will have to step back and/or retire?    

You may have always planned to sell your business to fund your retirement but it is not properly prepared to be sold at this time. Who will buy the business if its dependent upon you – especially a sick you? If anyone buys, you will be forced to somehow work in an earn out and sell at a steep discount.

It is a situation that could have been avoided if you had been situationally aware and put in place a viable independent business structure during the preceding years (such as internally grooming or hiring an experienced management team and ensuring most customers not reliant upon your personal attention).

Lack of Business Situational Awareness – Business Insurance

In the United States for example, small businesses represent over 99% of all businesses2 and yet nearly 80% do not have business insurance at all or incorrectly rely on their personal insurance (the problem with personal insurance is that it often excludes business related expenses)3. A catastrophic event that is not covered can destroy the business – even one that had been thriving and profitable.

Lack of Business Situational Awareness – Financing

A similar issues lies with emergency financing. An inability to obtain financing to cover cash flow issues is one of the top reasons most SMEs fail. As most SME owners can attest in the UAE, bank loans are very difficult to acquire (only 5% of loans issued by UAE banks go to SMEs)4 and one main reason many get rejected is lack of awareness around their valuation and the key drivers to make their business an attractive option to receive a loan.

Ultimately, a lack of situational awareness and ignorance of a current and accurate valuation can cost you thousands or even millions in opportunity or actual costs. It can lead you to over-valuate your company and miss an opportunity to sell it at an optimal price due to unrealistic expectations. Conversely you might undervalue and sell it for too little.

Consistently monitoring your business valuation and key drivers, helps you make important decisions for your company. You will better know if and when to raise capital and how to ask for it. You will better gauge how to best grow your business and transform it into an asset that can thrive without you. Ultimately, you will be better prepared and have a better idea when to exit and have better choices among exit strategies to follow.

How do I apply Situational Awareness to my business

You develop situational awareness for your business by regular high level valuations and a focused discipline in enhancing the key value drivers. Our four phase Sophiall Solution systematically takes you through a proven process to not only make you more situationally aware of your business, but to also help guide you in potentially enhancing the value of your business by over 70%.5

The key drivers we will take you through include the following:

Financial Performance

Your history of producing revenue and profit combined with the professionalism of your record keeping

Growth Potential

Your history of producing revenue and profit combined with the professionalism of your record keeping

Key Critical Dependencies (“Switzerland Structure”)

How dependent your business is on any one employee, customer or supplier and helping you reduce your risk on these dependencies where possible.

Working Capital Gap (“Valuation Seesaw”)

Helping you close the working capital funding gap (i.e. how slow you receive money from your customers compared to how fast you have to pay your suppliers) so that your business becomes a “cash spigot” instead of a “cash suck.”.  if any buyer were to be required to pour money into covering working capital due to long lag times for customers to pay their invoices, that would significantly reduce the value of your business.

Recurring Revenue

Proportion and the quality of any automatic, annuity based revenue you collect each month and ways to increase it.

Product and Service Differentiation (“Monopoly Control”)

The level and strengthening of any product or service differentiation you have against competitors. The stronger differentiation you can create and defend, the more attractive pricing you can charge.

Customer Satisfaction, Referrals and Repeat Business

The likelihood that your customers will re-purchase and refer you to others

Business Independence (“Hub & Spoke”)

How well your business can operate independent of your daily involvement.  If you were out of commission for three months would the business survive? Can your business thrive without you? One key benefit of the Sophiall Solution is enhancing the independence of your business so it becomes an asset that creates value even when you concentrate your time and resources elsewhere on family, hobbies, and/or other endeavors.

What are the key benefits of having Situational Awareness for my business?

The sad reality is that most businesses fail (50% within five years and 80% within ten) and the owners receive nothing for the investments and sacrifices they made. Many of these owners failed because they were “Tuned Out”. Their lack of situational awareness meant they were often caught by surprise by an issue or crisis that limited their options as their business was not prepared for any sort of successful exit or transfer.

Just as a situationally aware person will avoid the mugger and turn away from the blind alley before it is too late, the situationally aware business owner will be better prepared to capture the full value of the business they have built over the years even with an unforeseen crisis. They can better handle both the expected and unexpected challenges that can sink many others.

By understanding the full value of your business and knowing its underlying key drivers, you can more optimally compete in the market and improve your future prospects. You will avoid operating blindly in a fog of ignorance or by sheer panic from over stress. By investing your time to leverage your situational awareness you can create an independent business that can thrive without your daily involvement. Ultimately you become prepared for any number of successful potential exits; even if the unexpected crisis should arrive.

You have the opportunity from today to avoid that fate most of your peers will face. By utilising the Sophiall Solution you can help position your company for long term success.  By realistically understanding the value of your business and in enhancing its key underlying drivers, you will get ahead of your competition and strongly position yourself to successfully handle any situation or offer that comes your way.



[1] This article borrows heavily from the concepts Scott Stewart has shared over the years in his blogs in regards to personal safety in an age of kidnapping, terrorism and other crimes. His blogs first with Stratfor and now Torchstone Global are an immeasurable resource. The graphics and labels in this article are sourced directly from Mr. Stewart’s blogs and referenced as such.

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[5] A key component of the Sophiall Solution is the use of the Value Builder SystemTM. The Value Builder System™ is a statistically proven methodology designed to improve the value of a privately held business. At the core of the system is The Value Builder Score™, an evaluation system driven by an algorithm that evaluates a business on the eight core value drivers acquirers take into consideration when buying companies. This score gives a comprehensive assessment of the “Sellability” of your business, whether you want to sell next year or just to know that you’re building a valuable asset for the future.

After analyzing close to 60,000 businesses, analysts at The Value Builder System™ have discovered that companies with a Score of 90+ received offers that are 7.1 times higher than the average-scoring business.

The Value Builder System™ is available exclusively through an experienced and authorized group of advisors, known as Certified Value Builders™, located across the globe. Sophia Global Consulting F.Z.E. with its Sophiall Solution is a Certified Value BuilderTM.