Turning Business Threats into Opportunities

Things have been going great. Your product is making headway in the industry. Your customers are giving positive feedback. It feels like nothing can slow your current momentum.

And then it happens. You identify a threat to your current success.

Common threats take different forms. For many businesses right now, the main threats are related to COVID-19 and the influence it’s had on the economy. Others may face more traditional threats like a new competitor coming into the space, or the loss of some of your best team members to another company’s aggressive recruitment. Sometimes threats are even internal, such as a team that fails to adopt or maintain the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.

Whatever the specifics of the threat you’re facing, it’s important not to despair. Every business encounters threats, and the path to long-term success always requires the ability to evolve and adapt.

 

How to Turn a Threat into an Opportunity

The first response when identifying a threat is typically a mix of negative emotions. You may feel fear, worry, and concern about what it will mean for your business. That’s perfectly natural, but it’s important you don’t get stuck in those emotions. For your business to handle the threat effectively, you need to move into action.

1. Don’t panic, analyze.

The best way to fight fear is with knowledge. Start your response by collecting as much information as you can. If the threat you’ve identified relates to a competitor, dive into a full competitive analysis. Learn everything you can about the company, their product, and their strategy. Figure out where you stand in relation to them with a full SWOT analysis—a process of outlining your relative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

If the threat is internal, perform an internal audit to better understand what’s behind the issue. Are there bottlenecks in the processes you have now, that are leading to lower productivity? Is your team using the tools available to them? And if not, is it because they never found the time to learn them, or because they don’t actually meet your needs? Understanding your internal issues is key to figuring out how to address them.
If you’re dealing with something larger scale, like threats related to the novel coronavirus, then there are some limits on the knowledge you can gain. No one really knows how soon the pandemic will pass, or what its long-term effects on the economy and specific industries will be.

But learn what you can. Review the information provided by experts. Survey your customers to learn what they’re feeling and what they need right now. And talk to your team to figure out how the changes are affecting their ability to do their job well.

Whatever the threat may be, to face it head on and determine if it can become an opportunity for your business, you have to take time to fully understand it. And sometimes a challenge that seems like a catastrophe at first instead opens doors to new ways of thinking and doing things. The coronavirus could inspire you to pivot your business in a direction that better meets the current needs of customers, or a new competitor could help you notice an area of the market you’ve neglected.

2. Bring all hands on deck to brainstorm next steps.

Once you’ve performed a full analysis and understand the threat as well as possible, it’s time to move to the collaborative stage. Identify everyone in the company likely to be affected by the threat and any changes you make in response to it. Present the primary insights from your analysis and ask everyone to share their reactions.

Encourage people to brainstorm and contribute their thoughts and ideas. Approach this session with a “no bad ideas” mentality, so everyone feels comfortable sharing insights, even if they’re a bit outside of the box. If everyone involved is able to weigh in on the path forward, you’ll do a better job of crafting a response that incorporates all relevant factors. And by bringing more minds into the fold, each with unique expertise, you’re more likely to land on the most innovative response.

3. Create a plan based on your data and ideas.

Now that you’ve collected all the relevant information and worked with all the affected teams to generate a wealth of ideas, narrow down what you have into one clear plan. Will you be changing your pricing? Adding a new product to your offerings? Creating a new persona to target? Or updating your product with functionality that makes your product more useful moving into the future?

Whatever response you’ve decided will best address the threat and ensure your company comes out on top, commit to the project and turn your idea into a clear plan. Clarify your goals and priorities, so you can put together a realistic strategy focused on what matters most.

4. Assign clear roles and deadlines.

To make sure your plan becomes reality, you need to break it down into specific tasks and determine who to put in charge of realizing each. In addition to assigning clear roles to each department and person involved, also create a timeline for completing the plan. Attach deadlines to each action item, so the team knows how to prioritize their responsibilities.

5. Create a feedback loop.

Having a plan is important, but with how fast the world (and most industries) change right now, it’s important not to be rigid about it. Make sure your plan includes room for agility.

Continue monitoring external factors as you go. If the main threat you’re responding to changes when you’re in the midst of your plan—say, your competitor goes out of business or changes their product–you need to know about it and incorporate that into your response.

And be in constant contact with everyone involved in executing on the plan. Make sure they’re all comfortable weighing in on how things are going and any feedback they have throughout the process. You want to know if something’s not working out the way you’d hoped in time to course correct. That requires creating a culture that encourages communication.

 

Never Get Complacent

The coronavirus has forced the entire world to face the fact that we never truly know what to expect of the future. Right now, businesses (and the humans behind them) are dealing with a lot of challenges. To make sure you come out OK on the other side of this crisis—and every other threat you face in the years to come—learn how to spot threats early and launch into action to turn them into business opportunities.

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