“Into each life some rain must fall,” sang the Ink Spots a few decades ago. It is true that all businesses face some bumps in the road and we are faced with choices. We can throw up our hands and give up; we can keep doing the same thing and continue in a decline; or we can examine our situation and adjust.

Rain can be nourishing if we learn to use it. Innovative entrepreneurs turn adversity into a competitive advantage.

Adversity exposes opportunities. We can start by understanding the problem. Have the needs of the market and customers changed? Is some new competitive product or service become available to them? Has our quality or service diminished? Is a major shift in our offering required or can we satisfy our shortcomings with a series of minor changes? Is our financial return satisfactory?

Often, a major change is difficult, costly and of long duration, so it is doomed to failure. We may be better off with a series of small steps and adjust as we learn from each.

Some factors to be considered in our road to combating the present crisis are:

  • Think small. Our changes should be feasible, affordable, simple, convenient, sustainable, and within our capability. Small innovations can be huge and can be produced with a small outlay. The CEO of a former client told me, “What is important is baby steps, little by little, better and better.”

  • Think market and customer needs. Are there unmet needs, either defined or unknown by customers? What do we have to do to excel in meeting those needs? What changes can we make that would not only satisfy customers but move beyond satisfaction to surprise and delight them?

  • Think growth and sustainability. What can we do to increase our market share and be able to hold it going forward? Today’s world is not standing still, so what can we do to be on the road to continued improvement?

  • Think capability of resources. Do we have talent, equipment, materials, technology or intellectual property that are not fully utilized in one area that can be shifted to improve shortcomings in another? Is a perceived choice feasible with our resources and capability?

  • Think financial benefits. Profit potential comes from customer value, cost management and growth opportunities. Proposed solutions to our present crises must consider a financial return, now and in the future.

Michael Porter wrote, “Competitive advantage emerges from pressure, challenge and adversity, rarely from an easy life.”

Necessity can, in fact, be the mother of serious inventions. Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.

Lou Schultz is a Certified SCORE Mentor and can be reached by email at cabinlou@mac.com.