Problems are good.
I’m always running into problems in my business. Our product needs a design tweak, a bookkeeping process has a hiccup, the latest insurance renewal changed the available options – there is always something, which also means there is always room for improvement.
That’s the opportunity! It gives us a chance to review what we have and ask ourselves what we can do about it.
In 1999, I was fortunate to sell my first company, GovCon. I wanted to start another company, but I didn’t know what to build. So, my partner and I looked at the problems we faced at GovCon. The biggest one was doing our email newsletter. Nobody at the time offered a simple email newsletter solution for small companies. We figured many companies had the same issue so we created MailerMailer, an email marketing service just for small businesses. The New York Times included our story in a piece they did on making mistakes.
MailerMailer is now a thriving business and we are about to launch a new product based on a problem that many companies face when doing their newsletter: writing the content. Our new tool, Presstacular, includes a library of click-and-use articles so our clients can just pick the articles they like, edit them if they have time and they’re done. It makes creating a newsletter very easy. We saw the opportunity in the problem.
Problems are Opportunities in Disguise
Several years ago, my company started a 401(k) retirement plan. We wanted to make sure all of our staff had something for retirement so we set up an automatic contribution from the company for everyone, regardless of whether our staff contributed to their own accounts.
A year later, the company that set up our plan had some staff changes and our rep was assigned to a new region. We were assigned a “Vice President” level person who never followed up with phone calls or took the time to make sure we were taken care of. After a year of non-responsiveness, we were ready for a change. But 401(k) stuff is, at least to us, pretty boring. Changing who manages the plan would mean more research, more meetings… ugh, just not my thing. So, we kept it as is.
Six months later, I received a direct mail letter from a broker who worked at a very large investment bank. He said that he could take over the plan and provide the kind of service we were looking for and he described in one simple page how easy it would be for us to do. His timing worked out well for us – and for him. We had a problem and he had a solution. We switched to his company and I am very glad we did. We now get to experience the high level of service we were missing all these years. Our issue was fixed, our process improved and our staff significantly happier – all because we had a problem.
Take Advantage of Your Problems
If you had no problems, you wouldn’t know what to fix. Problems help us take a fresh look at a situation and see what can be done to make things better. Problems shed light on things that we can improve. Ask yourself questions regularly so you can identify problems that you can do something about.
And the next time you face a problem, look at it a different way: it’s an opportunity!