Terrorist attacks are an exceedingly rare occurrence in the modern world, but they have a wide coverage on international news and social media. This makes them a major topic on everyone’s mind. Businesses run on complex interrelationships between themselves, their customers and their society. Thus, the effects of terrorism and of the threat of terrorism on commerce can be chaotic.

Some businesses will profit, but the vast majority may well decline. A very, very few businesses will experience terrorist attacks personally. They will see both the worst of humanity, and during the recovery they may well see the best.

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Business Areas that Are Generally Hit by Terrorist Attacks

Businesses that are the target of terrorism can be broadly divided into three major categories. There are military targets, symbolic targets, and targets of opportunity. All three of these targets have a good example in the attacks of September 11th, 2001, so examples will be drawn from that incident.

Military Targets

Although modern definitions of terrorism have changed the way that we look at war, there is no conceivable definition of a military target that does not apply to the Pentagon. The building is full of civilian employees, but that distinction primarily matters to those within it. From the outside it is a clear part of the military, and all business that takes place within it is military business. Attacks upon it are military attacks.

Symbolic Targets

The World Trade Centers, on the other hand, were largely symbolic targets. They had no direct connection to the military, but instead were chosen for what they meant to the American people and the world. It is important to note that the symbolism of the buildings was much clearer to the attackers than it was to the people who worked there and inhabited that city. This is, sadly, normal.

Reminder: few Americans indeed would have named the World Trade Center as the most significant building in New York City.

Targets of Opportunity

The various businesses around the World Trade Center that suffered destruction or loss from the attacks were targets of opportunity. The terrorists did not mind that those were hurt, but they were not real targets. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The vast majority of businesses will be symbolic targets or targets of opportunity. This means that either they serve a clientele that someone feels violently opposed to, or they are simply in a place that a terrorist chose to attack for other reasons. A sidewalk cafe that happens to be next where a bomb exploded would be the classic example of these sorts of target. These businesses are not responsible in any way for the attacks upon them, have no way to expect them, cannot realistically prepare for them, and have little ability to respond.

Businesses that are in connection to the military have a greater responsibility for security, but they can also expect to meet proportionately greater force. Other businesses have few options for defense. Although you might be aware that your business is in a place of symbolic targeting, there is very little in the way to predict what a terrorist thinks is important. Few Americans indeed would have named the World Trade Center as the most significant building in New York City.

5 Most Devastating Effects on Business of Business Attacks

Death of Employees

The death of key employees is the worst effect of terrorist attacks on a business. Not only does all knowledge and expertise die with the affected employees, but the remaining employees will likely be deeply upset and commerce will suffer disruption until new employees can take the place of the ones that died. It is also very possible that these employees were too invaluable for the business to continue.

Injury of Employees

By a similar token, employees who are hurt or that suffer severe trauma are quite likely to leave their employment. If a person has survived the chaos and pain of a terrorist attack, then they are much less likely to want to return to the place where the deed took place. Terrorism will drive many more employees away than it kills.

Harm to Clientele

The people who shop at the business, whether killed, injured or frightened, are equally unlikely to wish to return to the place they associate with such trauma. This is especially true for businesses that sell creature comforts like books or food. Their clientele can be permanently distraught by an attack.

Harm to Business Infrastructure

The business will obviously be down while they finish all necessary repairs and put away all evidence of the attack. The street outside the business will very likely require serious work as well. Perhaps there are improvements that can fix the infrastructure to prevent this sort of attack from occurring again. All these repairs and improvements are expensive and may be beyond the ability of the business to purchase.

Harm to Economy

Terrorism has a deeply chilling effect on the economy. Financial effects are felt far from the site of the attack. An example would be the recession that took place after September 11th. Businesses who were not even vaguely the target and with locations hundreds of miles away suffered losses. They saw that their customers were unhappy and unwilling to spend money because of the events in New York City.

After the attacks of September 11th the place where I had worked was obliterated. As it was on the first floor, there was not one single customer that died. They all evacuated in time, but the store itself was destroyed. That branch of the store simply did not exist anymore. All employees were transferred or left the company, and the books were closed. Not long after that the chain went out of business, and the loss of their flagship store in one of the worst terrorist attacks ever was absolutely a factor in the destruction of their company. Terrorist attacks have the potential to cause damage far from the site of initial devastation. However, it is equally accurate to say that the attack exacerbated existing weaknesses in that business’s model and method of conducting commerce, and that other businesses that sustained equal or greater devastation went on to survive.

the 2013 light tribute to the victims of the nine eleven terrorist attacks

Summing It Up

Businesses do not have the luxury of determining societal conditions or bemoaning societal trends. Their purpose is to interface with society as it is and to profit from the way things are, not the way they wish they were. Occasional acts of terrorism are simply a fact in our modern world. It would be crudely optimistic to even suggest that a cure is forthcoming. Therefore terrorism is just one more regrettable societal factor that a wise businessperson takes into account and weighs according to its actual risks and effects. Business must go on, no matter what is happening outside.

Images taken from depositphotos.com.

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