Turning problems into opportunities

Turning problems into opportunities

Thu, 12/10/2017 - 10:20
Shanghai dusk

Chinese markets represent significant opportunity, and challenges, for Australian business.

I had an interesting conversation with a client who wanted to expand his business into Asia.

John lamented how difficult it was to penetrate new markets where the language, culture, legal systems and business practices were different to those in Australia.

With his business declining in Perth, he looked to tap into Asia’s growing affluence in a bid to grow his company.

The difficulties he experienced seemed insurmountable and he had no idea how and where to start.

He sought professional help rather than battle the maze himself.  

As a starting point to help John, I quoted from Forbes School of Business Professor Reed Markham: “Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”

In fact, the two Chinese characters for crisis (pronounced as wei ji) translated stand for danger and opportunity.

In every challenge, there are dangers and risks you need to consider carefully, but hidden in these pockets are opportunities to tap into, learn and grow in your knowledge, skills and experience.

But to spot these opportunities, you first need to change the your perceptions, review what you have done right or wrong, and reflect on how you can effectively move forward with the right connections and resources to turn difficulties into opportunities.

Indeed, there is a Chinese saying 乱世出英雄 (pronounced luan shi cu ying xiong), which means it is only in difficult, chaotic times heroes emerge.

Only in times of crisis, when you have to think outside the box to overcome difficult circumstances, will you see your true self and test your authenticity, leadership, patience, resilience and perseverance.

It is often only in challenging times smart entrepreneurs innovate and transform difficulties into opportunities to stand out from the crowd, and be seen as the leader of their industry.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, and Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, are great examples of leaders who seized golden opportunities in the middle of various difficulties when most doomsayers argued their ideas were crazy and their big dreams were about to crash.

Consider the challenges you are facing today.

For instance, in John’s case, his greatest challenge was he could not speak Mandarin and did not understand the complexities of doing business in China.

Possible solutions could be learning some basic “ice-breaker” conversations in Mandarin, reading up on China-Australia Free Trade Agreement concessions, export-import laws, customs, social etiquette and finding out the who’s who in the market you want to penetrate, and who has the (guanxi, also known as relationships) to connect you to the decision makers.

You don’t have to do it alone. Reflect and brainstorm with your team on the options. Research and list the difficulties, opportunities, risks, costs and benefits for each option objectively. 

Consider them in the light of your strengths and weaknesses (do your SWOT analysis) and determine what you need to do, in what order of priority based on your timeframe and resources.

This simple yet effective exercise will give you better clarity and a roadmap to navigate the challenges.

With a clearer view, you will be able to turn your difficulties into opportunities, and determine what you need to do and who you need to get on board to achieve your business objectives.