The art of business has a lot in common with the art of war. That’s especially true in Texas, where a unique sociopolitical landscape serves up plenty of unexpected twists and challenges.
You wouldn’t go to battle without preparation –– knowing if you have enough ammo, fuel, food, and intelligence on the enemy. The same applies to doing business in Texas. To succeed, you must know your audience, and just as importantly, your opposition.
Anything that can be used against you is a vulnerability you can’t afford to leave undefended.
You need to identify your weaknesses, find your blindspots and uncover how opponents and critics will attempt to discredit you. Prepare yourself with a vulnerability assessment.
A vulnerability assessment is a proven method of conducting opposition research on yourself: It’s a tool to find the smallest crack somebody could use to drive a wedge through.
These assessments are foundational to any research operation, helping you discover weaknesses that are not in plain sight. That includes previous statements, poor messaging, public missteps, open records, competition and historical context.
Even more critically, your vulnerabilities are bound to look very different in Texas than any other place you’ve done business before. We do things differently here.
Not Knowing What You Don’t Know Could Doom Your Texas Deal
No matter the size of your company or project, expect to encounter some resistance to whatever you’re pursuing here. We live in a world where opposition is easier to secure than support.
Whether it’s a downtown revitalization project, modernization of antiquated laws or regulation or a rural transmission line — an individual, agency, advocacy organization or a Facebook group somewhere will raise an objection, resurrect your past or post a personal attack to derail your plans. Texans have strong opinions and are unafraid to share them anywhere and everywhere.
A vulnerability assessment will keep your project from unraveling by discovering where you’re unwittingly giving the opposition an opportunity to discredit you. Let’s look at why this is an important first step to doing business in Texas along with the essential elements of a vulnerability assessment.
Skipping a Vulnerability Study Will Leave You Open to Attack
If you don’t know what someone could hammer you with, you will likely get hammered by it.
Vulnerabilities are a two-way street. They are your dirty laundry waiting to be exposed (or factually explained) — or they are an opportunity to authentically reframe the narrative, own the past and take control of your business’s future.
Your success in Texas depends on having a thorough understanding of your vulnerabilities and designing strategies to mitigate their impact. Professional research and intelligence lead to informed decisions, which create desired outcomes.
To TCB (take care of business) in TX,
you’ve got to CYA.
A vulnerability study puts you ahead of the curve. It gives you time: Time to develop a strategy. Time to prepare a response. Time to frame the narrative and set the record straight. The opposition doesn’t always need facts to be right.
Essential Elements of a Comprehensive Vulnerability Assessment
At The Monument Group, our Texas roots run deep. We apply our generations-deep understanding of this larger-than-life state to your business. We know where to look and what to be on alert for as we unearth your vulnerabilities.
What information are we gathering when conducting a vulnerability assessment? It varies depending on the company, the project and other external factors.
But broadly speaking, a vulnerability assessment provides a review and analysis of:
- Media coverage (Nexis, Google, Internet archives, TVEyes, Meltwater)
- Direct quotations (Op-Eds, speeches, press statements, correspondence)
- Social media coverage (Facebook, blog posts, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube)
- Public records (legal databases, online databases, FOIAs)
- Political contributions (local, state, and federal)
- Financial disclosures (asset searches, personal financial disclosures, state/county/local property listings, SEC and FEC)
- Lobbying records
- Personal, political and business associations
- Votes, budgets, attendance and statements in public meetings
- Environmental citations, OSHA violations
While this is a far-reaching list, it’s not necessarily exhaustive. A vulnerability study is a meticulous forensic process. Any one of these areas could lead to deeper investigation and inquiry, applying the same rigorous research as your opponents would.
Designing a move-forward strategy is best informed by past events.
Historical analysis is paramount to understanding the failures of your predecessors or previous responses to your issue in a local market and learning how to best position your efforts for success. Time will not heal all wounds. But a strategy to resolve past shortcomings can.
How you view your weakness is irrelevant. It’s how others view your weakness.
Sensitivity to vulnerabilities is often strongest inside a company or organization. However, external optics drive the outcome of a campaign or business initiative. Aggregating those external opinions should inform how to approach perceived weakness and identify the highest-impact targets to earn your desired outcomes.
Success Elsewhere Doesn’t Guarantee Anything in Texas
Companies entering any Texas market may have been successful in another part of the country and attempt to replicate those same strategies here.
Maybe you had an initiative that worked with folks in California. When the opposition reveals what was said in that effort, that messaging is going to sink like a lead balloon in Texas.
Your opposition will pull up quotes and say, “This is totally inconsistent with what they’re peddling here in Texas.” And they’ll say, “Hey, Texans, do you like how they portrayed this to Californians?”
The answer is, probably not. A Texas-centric vulnerability assessment with The Monument Group reveals those discrepancies and helps you avoid making unforced errors.
Additionally, the study results will tell you if you’ve got the right people in the right spots saying the right things at the right times. Like our topography, the attitudes and cultures of Texas markets vary widely. What plays well in one city or county may fall flat in another. To get it right, you need to understand how best to customize your approach and play to your strengths depending on which area of Texas you’re targeting. It’s imperative that you understand our state and acceptable approaches to receive a license to operate.
Take a Hard Look At Yourself Before Anyone Else Does
Whether yours is a global Fortune 500 company planning a high-profile campaign or a privately held, Texas-based firm raising its voice for the first time, vulnerability assessments provide real value.
In today’s world, companies face more scrutiny than ever before. They are being judged and analyzed on the same level as politicians and voters, or consumers, are reluctant to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Conducting a vulnerability assessment on a company and its initiatives is on par with vetting a candidate for public office.
What did you Tweet three years ago? What was that comment you made on Facebook? What does your employee handbook say? Is your boss’s name on a fundraising letter for a non-profit with fiduciary issues? What did your kid post on Instagram?
Cover every angle so nobody is surprised. It’s an investment in efficiency as much as it is an investment in your brand’s reputation. Our digital ecosystem allows anyone to create and exploit vulnerabilities on an ongoing basis. And absolutely nothing is off limits.
A vulnerability assessment gives your company critical ammunition to succeed in Texas.
If you’re looking to get things done and done right, let’s talk.