Breaking Ben

What Are Risk Scenarios?

Each Risk Scenario consists of two parts — The Scenario and The Analysis.

Part 1: The Scenario (15 minutes) Read The Scenario and answer integrated poll questions that solicit your approach or feedback to the situation. The Scenario is based on hypothetical situations that showcase emerging risks.

Part 2: The Analysis Review key themes in the Summary, access relevant articles and resources, learn about existing products and discuss the scenario with other participants.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.


Ben LeGrand yawned deeply, put down his reading glasses and pushed his chair away from his desk. The founder of Ben’s Best, a maker of organic cookies, breads and pastas, at 72 years of age, was feeling his years.

Ben reached into the open box of “Grand Galileos” his line of organic, whole-wheat fig bars, and snatched two of them from their compostable sleeves. The cookies and a fresh cup of coffee were his favorite afternoon snack.

Ben popped one of the fig bars into his mouth and sipped his coffee, enjoying the fine, sugary fig taste on his tongue. Still a kid at heart, he loved the crunch of the fig seeds between his teeth.

Looking out onto the manufacturing floor, Ben let his chest swell with pride, as he did every working day, at the billion dollar company he had built from the humble beginnings of a spring house on his Virginia farm.

Ben smiled. There on the factory floor was his daughter Julia in her orange hard hat and safety glasses, looking over one of the company’s production lines with a safety manager.

Ben was full of expectation, in addition to pride. Negotiations were almost complete to sell his entire Ben’s Best line, including the manufacturing facility and his highly lucrative contracts for producing private label products for other large brand food companies.

His phone ringing jarred Ben’s reverie. On the other end was Teague Ralston, Ben’s operations chief.

“Ben, it’s Teague,” Teague said in his direct, confident manner.

“Yes, Mr. Ralston, what can I do for you?” Ben said with mock deference, getting a chuckle from Teague.

“Hah! Ahhh, not too much. Listen, I want to run something by you. I’ve run into a supplier problem for chia seeds and I need to pick some up on the spot market.”

“I see no issues with the supplier,” Teague quickly added, anticipating, as he almost always did, a question from Ben.

“I know Soy Boy uses them and Robyn’s Fresh,” Teague continued, referring to two organic food manufacturers that he knew Ben was familiar with and respected as worthy competitors.

“That’s fine that they use them but what sort of premium are we looking at here?” Ben asked.

“We’re looking at about 10 percent more than usual but my opinion is that we don’t want to run short and end up having to give up shelf space. We use the chia seeds in our nut-free cookies as you know and in Ben’s Omega Bread and both of those are in competitive spaces. Heck, we’re talking end caps in Great Green’s in the mid-Atlantic and the Northwest,” Teague said.

“Gotcha Teague, gotcha. Yes, go ahead then.”

“Thanks boss,” Teague said.

Ben hung up and did the mental calculations. In the micro-view, Teague was, of course, right. You didn’t want to lose shelf space on nut-free cookies. It seemed like this entire next generation of kids had a peanut allergy and their parents were on red alert about it.

Ben’s Omega Bread also had a host of omega-3-rich competitors to face in a variety of food categories. No room to give ground willingly there either.

This was not the time to make any moves that would dent top-line numbers. Not with the sale of the company just about closed. No way, no how; not right now.

***

Seven weeks later, Ben was driving back from the Chesapeake Bay marina where he had just docked his 44-foot teakwood-finished sailboat.

It was late afternoon and the local National Public Radio outlet had just broadcast a teaser about contaminated cookie deaths out West.

Ben had been turning over a new product idea as he sailed his boat and the idea was still brewing in his mind as he drove home. But at mention of the word “cookies” he turned up the volume on the radio as the news report came on.

“The Salt Lake City coroner’s report on the deaths, three children and one adult, concluded that all four of the deceased had suffered severe anaphylactic reactions from contaminated cookies. The source of the cookies and the contamination is still being investigated,” the NPR said.

But Ben soon tuned the report out. He was working on a new idea and was on the verge of selling his company. He had to focus on the matters at hand.

“Wouldn’t want to be the person who made those cookies, though,” Ben thought to himself as he turned the radio down and continued mulling over his latest brainchild.

Does your company have a written plan in place that identifies alternate suppliers and risk management protocols for procurement?

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