How To Turn Problems Into Business Opportunities

Albert Einstein once said that “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity”. These words are incredibly relevant when it comes to looking for ways to grow and develop your small business.

As an entrepreneur you face challenges on a daily basis – the real trick is whether you can turn each challenge into an opportunity that improves your business performance.

Many business owners respond to problems on an individual basis but this approach will more than likely cause you to miss the bigger picture. Problems are a reflection of what is going on throughout your business model and as such they are a great way of shedding light on the systems and processes that may need improvement.

The best entrepreneurs address the immediate issues (you can’t avoid doing that!), but at the same time they look for the important insights the problem offers on what can be improved in the business model. The problems may well lead you to a new innovation or identify a new customer need that you can meet or at least service better than you currently do.

Here are some observations I have made throughout my business life on how you can best turn a problem into a business opportunity.

Procrastination is one of the main barriers to successfully converting challenges into opportunities, so please just get on with it! The sooner you address the problem, the sooner you can transform it into opportunity.

Swift action introduces a good amount of positive energy into the situation, and it is this sense of urgency that will focus you and your team to look for other possibilities. If you allow the problem to sit there for too long before taking action, your focus becomes limited to just fixing the problem so that you can move onto the next one. You will fall into the trap of not being able to see the wood for the trees, or in other words, you will become task oriented rather than thinking strategically on improving your business performance.

 

Apply lateral thinking when faced with a challenge, especially when you use groups or teams within the business to resolve problems. Sometimes simply viewing a problem from a different angle can lead you to a much better solution with much wider benefits than simply fixing the current issue.

When presented with a problem, our normal human reaction is to work toward removing the cause of the problem. While that sounds pretty logical, it can also be a huge mistake. Removing the cause of one problem may well create a whole new set of problems in relation to another area of your business. All of your business processes are linked to some degree so it is vital that you look holistically at the business every time you consider making a change.

Innovative thinking really is the key to shifting perceptions and opening doors to new opportunities within your business. Successful entrepreneurs create a culture of business innovation that starts at the most basic level of employees and flows upward until it reaches higher management. The world you operate in is constantly changing, and in fact that change seems to be coming faster and faster in recent years! You need to innovate to survive in today’s modern, global business world.

Let me suggest the following problem solving process for your business.

1. Convert the problem into a challenge – eg how can we improve cash flow collections from 60 days to 50 days? How can we reduce staff turnover to NIL?

2. Challenge team members to offer creative solutions

3. Engage in collaborative idea generation

4. Evaluate and develop ideas

5. Implement the best idea

6. Measure success and celebrate

With this process, each problem can be viewed as the gateway to creative possibility and improvement.

You will have started to build an innovation culture within the business and importantly, you will have also engaged your employees in the business improvement process. The more you get your staff engaged, the easier it will be for you to implement the changes required to solve the problem.

By taking a whole of business view to the initial problem, you also stand a very good chance of turning that problem into an opportunity to increase sales, improve profit and grow your business.

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