October 26, 2010

Whatever the results, this year's political election cycle is underscoring an interesting oxymoron: economic uncertainty remains strong.

This is not, however, a doom-and-gloom observation. You may be familiar with Shakespeare's famous line, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." Somewhat less known is the more colorful second half of that statement: "...which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head." This simple but expressive image reminds me that in times of uncertainty there are undiscovered opportunities.

How do we identify these opportunities? I suggest looking both outward and inward.

For example, looking outward you might benefit from a re-examination of your customer base. How have your customers changed? Have their needs evolved over time? What about the 80/20 rule? Are the same 20 percent of your customers responsible for 80 percent of your business, or do you have a new primary client base? More broadly, how has your marketplace changed? Answers to these questions will help you refine the products and services you provide, as well as the ways you deliver them to your customers.

Looking inward, you may want to conduct an honest assessment of your employees and your leadership team. Do your people have the right talents and skills to meet the needs of today's customers? Are they prepared to lead your business into the future? If you uncover any gaps, identify appropriate solutions. Should you hire new people, or provide additional training for existing staff? Professional sports teams are always looking at their rosters to make sure they have the best mix of players possible. You should do the same. This doesn't mean hiring and firing at random, with the hope that you end up with the ideal combination; it means taking a thoughtful approach to assembling the right human resources.

Although adversity—or uncertainty—isn't always sweet, it can often point the way toward new opportunities.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.