How to Leverage Adversity for Business Success


Even with a solid business plan, well-developed products or services and a network of established customers hungering for said business offerings, organizations have no guarantee of challenge-free success. In fact, if there is one thing a business owner can expect, it’s that they will encounter adversity.

Despite this fact, adversity should be regarded as an opportunity for businesses to regroup and innovate. Learning strategies for effectively handling and overcoming these obstacles can allow entrepreneurs to operate their business in an even better way than before. To that end, 13 Newsweek Expert Forum members offer advice below on how entrepreneurs can strategically leverage adversity for business success.

1. View Success as an Ongoing Process

It starts by adopting a mindset that views success as a process rather than a pass or fail. Defusing perfectionistic tendencies and stripping power from your intense inner critic is a challenge. It involves consistent check-ins, self-assessments and taking risks. Confidence and resilience are acquired by repetition and frequently putting yourself in situations that trigger discomfort and grit. – Leah Marone, Corporate Wellness Consultant

2. Prepare in Advance for Challenges

Entrepreneurs, adversity and innovation are inseparable. An entrepreneur’s primary roles include filling needs by solving problems and generating revenue. Whether problems emerge through adversity, desire or inspiration, entrepreneurs who are ready to meet the moment with strategic innovation often reap the benefits of business success. Readiness and responsiveness are keys to meeting the moment. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D Unicorn

3. Reflect on Needed Improvements to Established Systems and Processes

In any business, be it a nonprofit or for-profit organization, adversity should point us to assumptions we or our organization hold onto that are no longer valid. This takes some deep analysis and reflection to avoid simply tweaking a system. Structures that are living on incorrect assumptions will not be helped by rearranging the pieces on top of them. – Dan Lutz, Lutz Globe LLC – Global Leadership of Business and Education

4. Know Your Risk Tolerance

Innovation inherently means there is some risk that could mean setbacks or failure. The ability of an entrepreneur to enter any innovation cycle with the self-awareness of what levels of risk are acceptable for the potential growth that can be realized, and then use that knowledge as a basis for decisions, can minimize fallout if plans do not come to fruition. – Lowell Aplebaum, Vista Cova

5. Build Confidence Based on Past Successes

If you’ve faced adversity in the past, what is actually good is if you survived it. As they say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. It also gives you the confidence to face future challenges knowing you’ve hurdled harder ones in the past. – Zain Jaffer, Zain Ventures

6. Talk With Experienced Peers

Consult with fellow or more experienced entrepreneurs. This is the best way to learn how they leverage adversity for business success. Learning is a never-ending activity that can prove to be the most important thing when experiencing challenges. You should surround yourself with a circle of like-minded professionals and entrepreneurs who can impart practical ideologies. – Dr. Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting

7. Lean Into Creative Inspiration

Many of the most innovative ideas and creations arise from creative tension, friction and restrictions. When people are backed into a corner or under pressure, they often come up with more unique solutions to help them claw their way out of the situation, which would never have occurred to them otherwise. The determination to succeed, bravery and some time set aside for brainstorming are all key. – April White, Trust Relations

8. Establish a Culture That Embraces Risks

Establishing an organizational culture that embraces and encourages calculated risk-taking is a strategic approach that challenges the status quo and leads to disruptive or transformative innovation. Learning from mistakes or challenges informs new processes, develops game-changing products or services and empowers your team to achieve greater heights for long-term business success. – Renée T. Walker, RENEE WALKER & ASSOCIATES

9. Start Asking Questions to Expand Choices

Change the conversation. When faced with uncertainty, shift from seeking answers to asking questions. To move from constraints to choices, the three questions to ask include: 1. What’s good about this?; 2. What else could this be?; 3. What would this look like if it were easier? – Karen Mangia, Salesforce

10. Make Adaptable Plans

We define adversity in relation to our plans. Because we can’t plan for everything, our strategy should also include room for change, adaptation and improvisation. Even if you’re facing adversity, innovation appears when your strategy allows you to ask questions instead of turning to the same old answers. – Jacob Mathison, Mathison Projects Inc.

11. Develop A Better Understanding of Different Perspectives

Use adversity as your friend to more deeply connect and truly understand opposing perspectives. Often, a breakthrough idea is buried in the root of adversity, and it just needs a little attention and coaxing to surface and materialize. Addressing the source of the adversity will also help channel the collective energy in a more positive direction. – Margie Kiesel, Avaneer Health

12. Prioritize Working on Your Business

When adversity arises, successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of taking time out of your day to work on your business. If you are dealing with a major problem, leave your business if you can and take one or two of your trusted employees. Go somewhere like a library, coffee shop or another place where you won’t be interrupted to discuss the problem and come up with a solution by listing out pros and cons. – Brian Beck, WMGNA, LLC

13. Be Open to Failure

It is a cliche these days, but “fail fast.” Develop a minimally viable product or service (MVP). Put it out there and put all the focus on learning from customers. Adapt and prioritize based on qualifiable and quantifiable feedback. Those who can rapidly adapt by laser focusing can dramatically change their trajectory. – Matt Domo, FifthVantage


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