Blog: Overcoming Business Challenges

One of the things I really appreciate about working with Small Business Connection is that it is our mission to make the life of a small business easier. That is, most small business folk don’t have a time to master law, insurance, web marketing, office issues, money, and technology, but we do.

That’s what we’re here for.

Indeed, small business people have plenty of challenges already, without having to learn or otherwise deal with something like a tax issue with which they may be unfamiliar. Which begs the question: What do you do when business gets rough? How do you handle the inevitable challenges that crop up when you are an entrepreneur?

The first thing to consider when business gets tough is that, while unwelcome, some problems can actually be the proverbial blessing in disguise; your issue may actually hold the very seed of your renewal. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, sometimes the best ideas occur during times of trouble.

This being an election year, let me give a political example:

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was running for reelection against a younger Walter Mondale. At the first of their presidential debates, Reagan looked and sounded like an old man. The buzz was that if he didn’t do dramatically better the next time, he might lose the election.

Came time for the second debate and everyone was watching the 73-year-old President closely. Soon after the debate began, Reagan took the initiative and broached the subject. The President promised everyone that even though age had obviously become an issue in the campaign, he “would not exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

With that quip, Reagan reversed his fortunes and regained the momentum. The issue evaporated and he walked off with the election. It was political Jujitsu.

If you think about it, businesses can also use a form of “business Jujitsu” to handle problems and challenges as well. The basic idea behind Jujitsu is to use an opponent’s weight and strength against him. By turning the tables on it, a problem becomes an opportunity.

The prototypical example of how to do it right in business comes from Johnson & Johnson. In 1986 its star product was Tylenol, which at the time accounted for about 15% of the company’s profits. That year, someone laced some Tylenol with cyanide and seven people died. A panic ensued. Instead of making excuses or hiding, Johnson & Johnson became proactive. They pulled all Tylenol from the shelves and invented tamperproof packaging. So rather than being associated with a disaster, the company was praised for its quick and decisive actions. Sales of Tylenol actually grew after its use of business jujitsu.

So that is the lesson. Part strategy, part mental trick, and part ancient plan of attack, business Jujitsu is the first thing to consider when business gets tough. It can help you reverse fortunes and actually take your business to new heights.

(For even more fun business tips and strategies, check out the podcast that I do in conjunction with Microsoft called Small Business with Steve Strauss, Powered by Microsoft.)

Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is the senior small business columnist at USA TODAY, the Editor-in-Chief here at Small Business Connection, a speaker and spokesperson. He can be reached at

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