Show me a problem and I’ll show you an opportunity. That’s one of the mottos that has made me successful in business. Further, the bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity. When I go to business events and hear people complaining about the problems they face in getting a new business going or revitalizing an existing business, I think to myself; there’s a bankruptcy just waiting to happen.
Adversity is just part of doing business and this is especially true for budding entrepreneurs. How we perceive and handle adversity determines how we will prosper or fail in a business venture. People who are deathly afraid of monumental challenges should not be starting new companies, they should probably be seeking employment in the traditional sense. Don’t get me wrong, there is no shame in deciding not to be an entrepreneur. Without hordes of traditional employees, a booming society cannot exist.
In business as in life, people too often run for the hills when trouble brews. Not only does hardship build character, it is usually the barometer of our success. At its core, business is simply a risk vs. reward endeavor. Tougher challenges pay back larger dividends when they are overcome.
Does this mean every move we make in business has to end up a winner? Absolutely not. A brief look at military history makes the point here. Losing one battle does not mean losing the war. Losing a battle is a setback but losing the war is disastrous. Let’s not confuse the two in a business context.
When adversity rears its ugly head, setbacks happen. A person who starts a business venture without anticipating setbacks is doomed. At the very least, setbacks are just lessons we learn on the road to success. Stumbling blocks are simply signals telling us we need improvement, whether it be in our products, our processes or perhaps even our attitudes. They may be mere speed bumps or they may force us to take a detour. At worst, bad situations force us to work harder or be more creative, or both.
While competition is a boon to consumers, it is the relentless adversary of the person running a business. On the positive side, tough competition hones our skills and forces improvement, which benefits everyone – well, almost everyone. Those who embrace competition are the achievers; those who fear it……….well, I’ll leave it at that.
Another love-hate relationship pops up when we look at change. Change is inevitable. It’s how we prepare for it and handle it that separates the winners from the losers. Visionaries see change coming long before it arrives, the rest of us just react to it when it does. The rate of change varies greatly by industry. Those in the technology sector often live on the razor’s edge – those in agriculture, not so much.
When looking for a career field to pursue or a business opportunity to tackle, we need to find a good match for our individual versatility mindset. Those who thrive on perpetual change are well-suited for fast-paced industries, while those on the other end of the spectrum need to seek a calmer environment. This does not in any way mean the latter group is any less valuable. We all make our contribution to society in different ways.
Innovation has its own adversity
If change is the vehicle that keeps business moving forward, then innovation is the fuel that keeps the motor running. Where would we be without continual innovation? Some say it’s happening too fast, others disagree. I don’t want to start that debate here, but we do need to understand that from a risk-reward standpoint, innovation can be a double-edged sword.
Much to the chagrin of inventors, new ideas often are not instantly adopted. Almost all of us know the story of the accidental development of the Post-it Note and trying to find a business person who doesn’t use them is akin to the impossible. No matter how invaluable these tiny yellow tags happen to appear, few realize that it took four years for 3M to realize their marketability. Even clever innovations can introduce problems of their own, and overcoming those problems is not an easy matter.
Innovators often come up with great ideas and either don’t launch through a lack of confidence, or do launch and run the risk of failure by not waiting long enough for wide-spread market acceptance. Deciding exactly when to launch an innovative product or service is a challenge of a whole different nature, but it’s still a genuine problem. Most of us are familiar with the old adage: you can identify the pioneers by the arrows in their backs.
At the end of the day
Problems and challenges come in all different flavors: competitive pressure, business growing pains, ups and downs of the economy, shifting trends, innovation & obsolescence, lack of market acceptance – and the list goes on. In most cases, challenges are just cleverly disguised opportunities. Business people who deal with the problems rather than avoiding them and meet the challenges rather than run from them always cross the finish line first.