Problems come at entrepreneurs from every possible direction: changes in the market, employee issues, economic conditions, and customer demands, to name a few. As one issue piles upon another, a business owner can feel stuck and overwhelmed, which stifles their ability to think creatively. 

When that happens to you (because it will), ask yourself this question: 

"How can I treat this problem/challenge as an opportunity?"

That's what in a recent call with one of my clients as she presented an issue she was struggling with regarding one of her lead employees. Susan built her company from the ground up with this loyal employee at her side. When it was just the two of them everything worked well, but as the company grew and employees were added, roles became confused and things stopped working so well. The employee excels in planning, number crunching, and project management, but not as a manager. My client was close to losing two very valuable team members because of it.

Focus on transforming rather than fixing.

Initially, we talked about management training programs and weekly mentoring sessions to improve the manager's people skills. However, within minutes I realized that rather than making a futile attempt at changing the person (this rarely works) we needed to change the situation. 

Within 40-minutes my client and I redesigned the employee's job description, removing her from managerial responsibilities and placing her in a role that would capture her greatest assets and minimize her weaknesses. The problem presented many golden opportunities for both, the entrepreneur and her employees. My client will soon be free to focus on expansion and product development, and the employee is more likely to thrive in her role since she will be doing more of what she loves and less of what she does not. She will even travel to Asia, which is something she's always wanted. Certainly, the other employees will perform better and find greater happiness in the company. 40-minutes was all it took to transform a major issue into a golden opportunity. 

Think about making money instead of not having enough of it.

Two years ago, my daughter and son-in-law, who are co-founders of a 7-figure business, felt the pinch of rising production costs due to the escalating costs of stainless steel. Margins were decreasing, and a product pricing increase was out of the question.

Many entrepreneurs would struggle under such circumstances in attempts to find other ways to cut costs, but these co-founders went in another direction. They built a factory and began manufacturing parts for their competitors. This drove their purchase price on stainless steel down substantially. Profits soared, and they have since self-funded three more successful startups. Please forgive me for bragging, but this was a brilliant move!

Don't view it as a problem in the first place.

Recently, one of my neighbors decided to stop purchasing replacement water filters for her shower and kitchen sink. The filters need to be replaced every 6-months and the housing canisters can be extremely difficult to open. Frustrated, Emily called the company to stop her auto-ship orders, but the savvy customer service representative listened to her problem and saw an opportunity for both, the company and the customer. 

Emily did not want to use unfiltered water in her home but saw no choice. Instead of losing a customer the CSR explained the benefits of upgrading to a whole-house filtration system. Filters need changing only once a year and a patented locking system makes switching them out simple and fast. The company gained an upsell and Emily gained pure water throughout her home. No problem here, only an opportunity.

Asking questions to reframe a problem instead of accepting it as insurmountable is the key to finding your golden opportunities. Sometimes thinking it through will lead you to the answers you seek; other times it's helpful to talk about it with someone who sparks your creative genius. The next time you feel as though you're struggling, look at your problem as an opportunity. Simply changing your mind about how you view something opens a world of possibilities.  

Published on: Sep 4, 2018