Changing risks into opportunities

news: Changing risks into opportunities

Somerset Maugham tells the story of the sacristan’s assistant who was fired because he could neither read nor write. When he left the church, he was so upset that he felt like smoking a cigarette. He couldn’t find a tobacco shop in the neighbourhood, so he made up his mind:

“I know what I am going to do – I am going to open a tobacco shop.” Business blossomed and he became a great businessman. One day he went to the notary who asked him: “Please sign here”. “Oops, that I cannot do, because I cannot write,” he replied. “You can’t?” exclaimed the notary, “and you got where you got! Where would you be and what would you be if you could read and write?” – “Oh Sir, that’s easy. I would be a sacristan’s assistant.”

One of our great human qualities is to transform risks into opportunities and to overcome obstacles. Look at McDonalds. Back in 2003, they heard that people were ‘running away’ from fried foods, so they launched premium salads – at higher prices than hamburgers! Then McDonalds heard that customers prefer the so-called quick, casual restaurants. So they bought the Prêt a Manger sandwich shop chain.

Research showed that the wealthiest neighbourhoods preferred to eat in more comfortable restaurants. McDonalds re-decorated in these areas (but only in these), incorporating wood finishings, jazz music, candelabras on the ceiling, and so on. The prices are higher, of course. When McDonalds discovered they were losing customers during the morning, the breakfast menu wasre-enforced with quality yoghurts, new meals and better coffees to match the standard of the Starbuck chain. Moving from risks to opportunities is characteristic of positive and constructive people, who are part of the solution. But what about Portugal? Here, the contrary prevails. We have people whose speciality is to transform opportunities into risks. How? By raising problems. Everything is a problem. An idea comes up, a proposal and ‘N’ difficulties are immediately raised. And the majority (worse of all) are ‘false’ problems. There are five reasons for this Portuguese characteristic:

1. Small-mindedness: any inconvenience/difficulty is a reason to stop.

2. Ignoring the fact that there is no rose without a thorn, every coin has two sides and, therefore, things must be decided in balance by weighing the pros against the cons.

3. Laziness: raising problems is a pretext for doing nothing.

4. Envy: it was not me who had the idea… or NIHE (not invented here). I’m upset with my life, so I’ll upset this other flow too.

5. And, finally, the ridiculous idea that to complicate things is synonymous with intelligence. On the contrary: in life, the simple thing is to complicate; the complicated is to simplify. As Oscar Wilde put it: “There is nothing so complex as a simple thing.”

Those who transform risks into opportunities are business people who innovate with staff who help. Those who transform opportunities into risks are a source of time wasting, problems and bankruptcies. It is a fact that, in life, some people facilitate, others complicate. Some are part of the solution, others of the problem. Some build, others destroy. Some win, others are losers. And how about you, dear reader – what kind of people surround you? Remember, the teams with the best players tend to win the games…