Your company is hit with an unexpected blow: a key business partner departs, you lose a lucrative account, or a “green lighted” contract runs into a snag. The result of the blow may be financial, organizational, emotional, or all three – requiring a period of rebuilding.
Once the shock, disappointment or anger begins to subside, perspective will largely drive what happens next. Ask:
• What’s the opportunity in this situation?
• How can we use these circumstances as an opportunity to thrive?
While the urge is to jump into action immediately, a brief period of reflection will steer you toward more innovative, lasting solutions.
Use these five steps to guide you through the process of determining what’s next:
1. Assess your circumstances realistically. What are your available resources and strengths? What are your current liabilities? Get a clear picture of resources and strengths – note everything that comes to mind, not matter how small it may seem. Examples: we have great relationships with the rest of vendors, our brand is well-recognized, and our investors are committed to us. When you make a list of your liabilities, check whether any can be converted into assets.
2. What is the opportunity? Opportunities are embedded in almost all obstacles. Stories abound of entrepreneurs who take an obstacle and turn it into asset. You can too – all it takes is a shift in mindset. Sit your team down for a brainstorming session and ask the question: Now that we’ve lost that contract, what is available to us? Although it may sound counterintuitive, this question stimulates the creative, problem solving part of the brain. Make a list of every opportunity that comes to mind, whether it seems realistic or crazy. Sometimes what seems initially off-the-wall might be exactly what you need to rebuild.
3. What have you learned? Many unexpected losses, departures or disappointments are opportunities for “course corrections”. Too often companies, teams and leaders react to solve the immediate problem – the lost account, the unexpected departure of a key player or the late product shipment – while forgetting to examine the larger picture. “What have we learned?” is a great question to ask. Even if a situation requires immediate action, it’s important to incorporate an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect collectively on the bigger picture.
4. Identify your solutions and strategies. Once you’ve assessed resources, strengths and liabilities, understand your opportunities, and have crystallized what you’ve learned, it’s time to identify the best solution to rebuild. This solution may involve a long term plan and short term “fix”. You may want to choose strategies to implement the solutions that reflect the information you gathered in steps one, two and three. The strategies you use to implement your solution may be based on a strength such as great customer service, shoring up a liability such as limited cash flow or an opportunity to shift the focus of your business to a new area. The key is to be clear about what you’re solving and how you’re going to implement the solution.
5. Commit to a plan of action. As you draft the plan, important questions to answer include:
- Who will spearhead the plan?
- Who else needs to be involved? In what capacity?
- What action steps are required?
- What are the deadlines and who will be accountable?
- What’s the communication plan? How will you evaluate progress?
- How will you know when you’ve succeeded?
When the unexpected happens in business, the outcome can be a temporarily bumpy ride. But once you find the opportunity inside of the circumstances, galvanize your courage, and gather your resources, the outcome can be even better than you had imagined.
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