Graham McGregor: Turning lemons into lemonade

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Look for the hidden opportunities when you have an unexpected set back in your business. Photo / Thinkstock
Look for the hidden opportunities when you have an unexpected set back in your business. Photo / Thinkstock

If you have been in business for any length of time you know that unexpected problems are a normal part of life. A good example is my cycling accident at the end of March this year. I had to take nearly six weeks off work to recover from my injuries. (Luckily I am back to good health now.)

So how do we turn some of these 'lemons into lemonade' as it were?
Here are two ideas that may be useful.

1: Tell the truth in your marketing when you have a set back.

Here's a good example...

James Webb Young started selling fruit by mail order many years ago. He tells the story of an apple-growing season where he was nearly ruined. Violent hail storms bombarded his apple trees with ice pellets, causing bruising and pock marks. He feared massive complaints and returns if he shipped the bruised fruit to his mail order apple buyers.

But if he didn't ship the damaged apples, he would have to refund all the orders, and his mail order business would be ruined. The apples were damaged only cosmetically. The hail had pockmarked the skin, but this did not affect the flavour or freshness.

Young went ahead and filled his orders with the pockmarked apples, and in each box shipped, enclosed a pre-printed card that read something like this: "Note the pockmarks on some of these apples. This is proof that they are grown at a high mountain altitude, where the same extreme cold that causes sudden hailstorms also firms the flesh and increases the natural sugars, making the apples even sweeter."

According to Young, not a single order was returned. In fact, when orders came in for next year, many order forms had handwritten notes that said, "Pockmarked apples if available; otherwise, the regular kind."

Often, by being truthful about your problems, you can gain substantial credibility with your buyer, increasing loyalty, sales, and customer satisfaction.

2: Look for new opportunities caused by your difficulties.

A great example of this is E3 Business Accountants in Christchurch. A major earthquake struck Christchurch in February 2011 and caused massive damage in the region. Many businesses were forced to close and other suffered huge financial losses. The future looked difficult and Jamie Tulloch the owner of E3 knew that if he did nothing his accounting practice would suffer.

So Jamie began looking for new opportunities.

Jamie realised that many of his clients would need help making insurance claims to their insurance companies. So he offered expert advice that meant his clients could put in accurate and timely business insurance claims. This was useful for his clients and created a brand new source of revenue for his firm.

Jamie also saw that thousands of trades people where going to be needed for many years to help rebuild Christchurch. And many of these people would be moving to Christchurch from other areas. So Jamie began running free seminar for trades people showing them how they take maximum advantage of the huge amount of new work that will be around for trades people. Many of these trades people found Jamie's ideas useful and decided to use his accounting services. So Jamie now had dozens of new trades clients.

The end result is that by looking for opportunities in unexpected problems, Jamie has just enjoyed his most successful and profitable year ever in business.

Problems and set backs are a normal part of business. The key is what we do with them.

"Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity." - Joseph Sugarman

Action Exercise:

Look for the hidden opportunities when you have an unexpected set back in your business.

Graham McGregor is a marketing consultant and the creator of the 396 page 'Unfair Business Advantage Report.' www.theunfairbusinessadvantage.com (This is free and has now been read by business owners from 27 countries.) You can email Graham on graham@twomac.co.nz

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