How to Spot Your Business Vulnerabilities

Deep roots aren’t enough to survive storms. You need flexibility. To start, identify where you need to adapt by proactively identifying your vulnerabilities.

The coast is a gusty place. You may own windblown oceanside family photos. Perhaps you’ve ventured to the beach to beat the heat. But even if your knowledge of beaches is confined to television, you’ve probably noticed that palm trees are quite at home near the sea.

It can be a bit daunting to walk underneath these tall, often thin trees when the wind starts really blowing. The fronds above rattle. The trunk creaks. Sometimes, a tree bends so far you think it might snap. And yet, these trees bear the wind far better than oaks and pines and cedars. Such sturdy behemoths can snap during severe storms. As they crash down, they expose deep, complex root systems that once anchored them in place. When the dust settles, it’s the palm trees that remain—still swaying in the breeze.

The key, of course, is flexibility. Rigidity in the face of winds eventually gives way to increasing pressure. Palm trees bend without breaking.

This flexibility is a posture entrepreneurs learn to master early on. And you can learn it, too. The key to successfully adapting in the face of changing winds is your ability to proactively identify vulnerabilities in four specific domains.


This is the domain where you receive the raw materials needed to accomplish your work. If you work in production, these raw materials are obvious. You can’t print books without paper. You can’t make pizza without cheese.

But even in the knowledge or services industries, it’s important to take a closer look. You can’t clean houses without cleaning supplies. You can’t work on the back end of a website with slow internet. You can’t sell vacations to exotic places when borders are closed.

To identify vulnerabilities, ask:

  • What outside resources do we rely on to accomplish our most important work?
  • How do recent changes impact these suppliers?
  • Are there alternative methods of attaining the necessary supplies?
  • Are there alternative strategies that could decrease the impact of supply losses on my business?


This is the domain that represents the product development and client services you offer. It’s the place where people are writing the books, preparing the pizzas, cleaning the houses, writing the code, and so on. It includes any necessary back-office support and probably includes the bulk of your team.

To identify vulnerabilities here, ask:

  • What internal resources do we rely on?
  • What about recent changes might hinder our day-to-day operations?
  • How have the roles of my team been impacted?


This is the realm of sales, marketing, and customer service. It’s the place to consider what your customers need, and how their methods of meeting those needs are shifting right now. It’s also the place to consider your outward-facing team and the changes to their work.

To identify vulnerabilities here, ask:

  • How has demand for my product changed?
  • What are my customers’ most pressing needs?
  • How have recent changes impacted my customers’ ability to access my product?
  • Will marketing spend have to escalate or deescalate?
  • What changes can my team make to best meet our customers’ needs?


The environment is the world beyond your business. It includes governmental mandates, the state of the economy, critical infrastructure and the social environment. While completely outside of your control, the environment can have a big impact on your business.

To identify vulnerabilities here, ask:

  • What recent legislation impacts my business?
  • How do current social concerns affect the appeal and relevance of my product or service?
  • By what criteria should I evaluate my pricing in light of the current economic reality?
  • What research or information do I need in order to make the most informed decisions?

When you take a lesson from palm trees, your business is more likely to survive unexpected storms. Reassessing your position by identifying vulnerabilities is vital for increasing the flexibility of your business. But knowledge alone is not enough.

Learn how to identify emerging opportunities and respond with action in my new book, Entrepreneurs Will Save The World.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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