Risk Formula: Explained

What is it, how to calculate it, formula, why it's important

As the CFO of a company, I’m all too familiar with the importance of keeping a close eye on risk. Whether you’re in finance, marketing, or any other industry, you know that risk can make or break a business. But what exactly is risk, and how can you calculate it?

What is Risk?

Risk is simply the chance that something will go wrong. In business, there are all kinds of risks to consider – from financial risks like investments and debt to operational risks like employee turnover and supply chain disruptions. You can’t eliminate risk entirely, but you can manage it by making informed decisions based on your risk tolerance and available resources.

The Risk Formula

So how do you actually calculate risk? It’s all about the risk formula. The basic risk formula is:

Risk = Probability x Impact

In other words, risk is the likelihood that an event will occur multiplied by the impact that the event would have if it did occur. Let’s break that down further.


Probability is simply the chance that something will happen. In the context of risk, it’s the likelihood that an event will occur that could have negative consequences for your business. To determine probability, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors, including historical data, market trends, and expert opinions.


Impact refers to the effect that a particular event would have on your business if it were to occur. This can be measured in a variety of ways – for example, in terms of financial loss, reputational damage, or lost productivity. It’s important to consider both the immediate and long-term impacts of an event when assessing risk.

Examples of Using the Risk Formula

Let’s say you’re considering a new marketing campaign that will cost $10,000 to implement. You’ve done your research and determined that there’s a 50% chance that the campaign will succeed, and a 50% chance that it will fail. The potential impact of the campaign is significant – you estimate that if it’s successful, you’ll bring in $50,000 in new business, but if it fails, you’ll lose $20,000 in wasted resources and lost opportunity.

To calculate the risk, you’d simply multiply the probability (0.5) by the impact of a successful campaign ($50,000), then subtract the probability (0.5) multiplied by the impact of a failed campaign ($20,000). The result is:

Risk = (0.5 x $50,000) – (0.5 x $20,000) = $15,000

So, the calculated risk of this marketing campaign is $15,000. Is that a risk that you’re willing and able to take? That’s up to you – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But by using the risk formula, you can at least make an informed decision based on all the available information.

The Benefits of Using the Risk Formula

Using the risk formula isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s essential for any business that wants to succeed in the long term. By understanding the risks involved in any decision, you can:

  • Make strategic decisions based on data and analysis, rather than gut instinct
  • Minimize the impact of negative events by planning ahead
  • Demonstrate to stakeholders that you take risk seriously and are taking steps to manage it

Ultimately, the risk formula is a powerful tool for any CFO (or any businessperson, for that matter!) looking to make informed decisions and navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. So, the next time you’re faced with a tough call, remember: risk = probability x impact. Crunch the numbers and make the best decision you can – your business depends on it!

Financial modeling made easy

Looking to build a financial model for your startup? Build investor-ready models without Excel or experience in Finance.

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.