Reputation Risks, are they predictable?

Michael D. Moberly , Principal, Founder, kpstrat

A blog where attention span really matters…

A respectful ‘short answer’…yes, probably, in most instances which I am familiar. However, leader reputation risks involve, not infrequently, behaviors, attitudes, and/or proclivities, etc., acquired and variously rationalized, translated, enabled, and honed over many years.

  • And yes, while the public, may have ‘the risks’ presented initially at least, as a single, perhaps thoughtless moment-in-time, seldom are they.

A straightforward starting point…to reflect on a business’s and its leadership’s reputation and risk to either, lies in the following…

  • reputation is a valuable intangible (non-physical) asset, perhaps commodity, which can be ethically + lucratively applied and exploited and/or unethically squandered, seemingly at will, and I believe we are obliged to consider it as such.
  • reputation is reflected in why markets – investors consistently attach credence to whom (a.) may be hired to lead a business, (b.) will be fired from a business, and (c.) planning for and execution of succession.

The reputation attributed to leaders, (contrived or real) is routinely portrayed (before hiring or after firing) as indicators of…

  • what a business may have mistakenly done, as well as
  • what a business intends (aspires) to do going forward,
    • i.e., do more of or avoid.

Of course, one need not look far to sight examples of leader reputations which materialized overtime and appeared to some as ‘too big to fail’. But, not infrequently did (variously) collapse and/or ‘crash and burn’ eventually, overtime,

  • perhaps not in investor’s eyes, but with business pundits and historians who presume an obligation to illuminate and unravel things less admirable for an often predictable and receptive audience.

Too, there are family owned – dominated businesses whose collective reputations are generationally sustained, some good and worthy, some in variations of not-so-good, and less worthy, fitting, or relevant to…

Seldom, in my view, do ‘reputation risks’ materialize absent some obvious and forewarned preludes.  I suspect most readers of this blog would not be hard pressed to ‘bring to memory’ a particular business reputation, irrespective of sector, that ‘flew so far under the radar’ it could not be identified, a prediction of what would come, i.e.,  operationally – transactionally as a potential, in some instances, catastrophic conclusion. But perhaps always be considered, a mitigatable risk, in advance.

Afterall this is 2020…the evidentiary takeaways are clear to those receptive. Most every behavior, act, event, rumination, and/or whim can be, and likely will be, for persons holding influential positions,

  • subject to being variously and irreversibly influenced via social media.
  • to think or assume otherwise, one, and their business – organization they are leading, is obliged to proceed cautiously and at their (potential) peril.

There are, in my judgement, obvious requisites – preludes to the materialization of reputation risk. Either, left unacknowledged and/or not responsive – receptive to oversight or modification, and absent operational unfamiliarity that reputation constitutes a valuable – competitive advantage delivering intangible (non-physical) asset,

  • ‘the favorables’ of which, should never be presumed to be irreversible or permanent.

Well then, a business is (fiduciarily) obliged to be prepared to repeatedly address adversities, that is, until someone tires of doing so and repeatedly doing so is eventually recognized as having an ending point.


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