After you line up financing, find a suitable location, hire staff and organize a potentially successful business plan, you must turn to external factors to effectively predict your future. There are a slew of factors to take into consideration that usually are beyond your control. While you may have contingency plans in place to deal with outside influences that affect your business, sometimes the best you can do is improvise when they occur.
The global economy is one of the biggest external factors that will, at some time, affect your business. Market fluctuations based on politics, terrorism attacks, wars and currency devaluation eventually trickle down to most commercial enterprises.
Wall Street and the solvency of big banks and financial institutions may not seem to have much to do with your business, but eventually they may affect your ability to continue doing business. Interest rates, the availability of credit and consumer loans are external factors you rarely can control.
If man could control the weather, vacation resorts would know exactly when to charge the highest room rates. Storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires are outside your purview of controllable business factors. In addition to the direct impact a storm may have on your ability to open your doors at any given time, widespread weather events often carry a substantial trickle-down effect to a wide range of businesses.
Zoning laws, highway construction and housing development are particularly important to retail establishments, restaurants, manufacturers and other businesses that rely on a location for success. Changes in the local infrastructure may prove either disastrous or fortuitous to your company.
State, local or federal changes in the laws can have a direct impact on your business if the service or product becomes highly regulated or outlawed. Cigarette manufacturers learned this lesson when public smoking was outlawed in many areas and smoking indoors has become practically nonexistent. Government regulations such as those that affect the environment or communication are beyond your control and could have a direct impact on your business.
While you may spend a good part of your profits on marketing in the hopes of favorably influencing trends, some are beyond your control. An increase in technology use by your customers may be built into your strategic planning, but you may not have planned for the widespread use of social media that could affect your business. Celebrities who become advocates for a cause or decide to boycott a certain business practice can start a trend that could seriously affect your business if you’re on the wrong side of the trend.
Your target customer base may change suddenly or slowly over a period of time. The changing makeup of your neighborhood that attracts more singles or young renters can affect your business for example if you cater to a more upwardly mobile, family-oriented customer base. Cultural implications of a changing neighborhood may affect your business negatively or positively depending on your ability to meet the needs of changing demographics.