Opportunity in Crisis

By Ian Richardson, Managing Partner, Richardson & Richardson Consulting

Observing Crisis

Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Churchill was referring to the concept that every challenge, obstacle, or indeed crisis can be viewed through two different lenses. You can view the situation negatively – seeing the problems, tasks, and overhead required to deal with the situation at hand. But there is a second lens, that of seeing opportunity in crisis. What systems, processes, offerings, or other items could be developed out of this opportunity? How can we do better or more stemming from this situation? Indeed – I’ve found over the course of my career that there are few things to make people more receptive to change than a well-qualified disaster in their business.

What types of opportunity exist in crisis?

There’s a lot of different things that can stem from a crisis. For example – imagine your home has been destroyed by an event (Fire, flood, hurricane, massive cloud of spiders that precipitated an explosive kitchen remodel). We can of course allow space for the grief, frustration, and concern that will stem from this event – The loss of domicile and possessions is traumatic for anyone who goes through it. However – once those feelings have been allowed space, can we not also see the opportunity this presents?

  • We can finally have the flooring/cabinets/paint color we’ve always wanted.
  • The nagging “to-do” list is no longer present for us, we’ve achieved a reset.
  • We could rework the way our closet / bathrooms are laid out to be more functional and aligned with today’s trends and preferences.
  • We have eliminated old risks such as lead paint, asbestos, knob & tube wiring, etc.

While these opportunities did indeed stem from a crisis (the loss of the home), we do have the chance to pursue them due to that negative situation. We have found opportunity in crisis.

The same applies to business:

  • We can rework processes that led to or contributed to the disaster.
  • We can make additional investments in our infrastructure to prevent a recurrence
  • We can evaluate business relationships to see if they are still meeting our needs.
  • We can use the “down time” to create space to evaluate our strategic plan and make modifications as necessary.

Even though these opportunities existed before the crisis, the crisis may create the proper environment to give us “permission” to pursue these opportunities where before we could not justify them.

Refocus on Opportunity

When you find yourself involved in crisis, ensure that you don’t create resentment, fear, or disbelief by “stampeding to opportunity” inappropriately. Create space and practice empathy around people’s feelings. Explore the impact and mirror statements to ensure you comprehend just how the situation has impacted your client’s organization, their team, and their customers. Don’t shy away from getting specific dollar figures around impact.

Ask for permission to discuss the crisis and impact in an intentional way. Explore what a proper future state or ideal outcome would be from the crisis. This will start to realign thought processes away from feelings into the space where opportunity can be recognized.

Present your thoughts in a straightforward manner and validate your findings. Ask your client “If we could make X happen, would that be a desirable outcome for you?” Present your findings around current impact from the disaster in comparison to budget for fixes / improvements.

Recognize that your client may not want to pursue all your recommendations, for fiscal, emotional, or political reasons. Allow for them to say “No” as well as “Not yet”. Take notes around reactions and statements made for each recommendation and follow up according to your process.

Change the Conversation

Sometimes disaster can make for an effective barrier-removal tool. Consider writing case studies based off your previous experiences (Genericize the situation enough so your client does not have negative brand impact from the story).

Utilize these case studies to present a relatable discussion topic to new clients or prospects considering your service offerings.

Follow your discovery process off these new talk tracks to determine if your case study has resonated with your prospect. Monetize the potential bad future state outcome and relate it back to your proposed positive future state and the investment needed to pursue that. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is the mantra of this conversation track.

Perform A/B testing with different presentation styles around the case study to find the ideal method of utilization. Take notes and revise as needed.

Final Thoughts

Just because something bad happened doesn’t mean that you must let the conversation be negative. Being able to help your customer come to a positive viewpoint around a negative situation is not only good for both businesses but has a therapeutic outcome of releasing stress and negativity that can well up and create toxic culture outcomes.

If you’re struggling to vocalize and present opportunities or get your team onboard with the need to do so, Richardson & Richardson can help. Check out our case studies for stories of organizations that we’ve assisted with similar issues and download our white papers for deep dives on tools you can use in your organization. If you’re wondering where to start, book a complimentary session with one of the Richardsons today to come up with a plan on how to move forward.

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