Look for the opportunities within the adversities

We’re surrounded by threats and challenges every day. Customers switch. Employees leave. Competitors surprise. Government regulates.

So how on earth can these contain opportunities?

It’s easy to see potential when a new market opens up, or you discover a great technology, or a competitor exits. But you have to be much more optimistic to see how a threat can be turned around.

It’s actually about your philosophy as a leader and how you choose to respond to events.

Suppose that a huge national competitor enters your space. They’re more efficient, and they have economies of scale you could only dream of.

Yes, you’re being pressed into some uncomfortable decisions. Let’s face it, though, it was only a matter of time before you’d have to look at this. The time is now.

You can focus on deepening relationships with your best customers. You can shift your product line and exit the areas where you don’t compete well. You can even pursue powerful new partnerships.

Or suppose that one of your key employees just left. Yes, that hurts, both for the company and for you personally.

The opportunity is to look at how work is allocated and skills are developed. You’ll be more attentive this time to not being so reliant on a single individual, and you have the chance to evaluate which areas will be more useful in the future. Now may be the time to phase out processes that aren’t serving you well anymore.

Consider the case of losing a big customer. Ouch!

This is the time to ask: What did we learn? Did we not pay enough attention to their shifting priorities? Are our products out of step? Did a competitor surprise us?

Remember that running a business is a dynamic, ever-changing affair. It’s about learning, adjusting, designing, and creating. Every day.

Yes, this is painful. I get that. It’s hard work that you hadn’t planned on.

But with every change, you have the chance to design for a better future. Perhaps not with as healthy a bottom line, but I would hope that’s not your only measure of success.

Your goals should also encompass delivering true value to customers, great jobs for employees, a healthier society, and security for your family. The money is just there to help you achieve those far more important goals.

That perspective is important, because it helps you make more balanced decisions. Yes, pay close attention to profitability and cash flow. But there are few companies that are defined purely by those financial measures. Even in the financial industry.

Go back to your core principles. What does “serving customers” mean in the future? What does “creating an enduring company” look like? How will we continue to “give value to our stakeholders?”

Sometimes you’re just forced to change. Threats happen. But you’ll be far happier when you look for the opportunities that are hidden within.

Carl Dierschow is a Small Fish Business Coach based in Fort Collins. His website is www.smallfish.us.