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From weaknesses and threats to strengths

Example of the Japanese Art of Kintsugi

This bowl is a beautiful example of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of turning repairs into a work of art to create something more stunning — and stronger — than it was before.

The metaphor of a disaster becoming a gift was my inspiration for this article.

All businesses have weaknesses and threats.

Sometimes existential.

Given that resilience and persistence are hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs, working out

how you can turn them to your advantage really matters.

Here are some real life examples to show you what I mean.

From bad taste to good taste

  • Weakness: In the late 2000s, Domino's Pizza faced criticism for the quality and taste of their pizzas.

  • Strength: Dominos openly acknowledged their shortcomings and launched a ‘Pizza Turnaround’ campaign. They made significant improvements to their recipes and transformed their reputation, gaining market share and enhancing customer satisfaction.

From taxes to treats

  • Threat: In post WW2 Italy, the government introduced stiff taxes on cocoa beans. This threatened many chocolate manufacturers'; existence, pricing many chocolate treats out of the market.

  • Strength: Baker Pietro Ferrero had a brilliant idea: why not mix hazelnut paste (which wasn’t affected by the new taxes) with a smaller amount of chocolate? This created the popular spread we now know as Nutella.

From a lack of trust to accommodation heaven

  • Weakness: When Airbnb was launched, it faced a significant weakness: lack of credibility and trust.

  • Strength: The company implemented a robust review and rating system, giving a transparency that built trust among users. By leveraging user feedback and emphasising safety measures, Airbnb created a platform that millions of people now trust and use for their accommodation worldwide.

From coal dust to toys

  • Threat: Cleaning coal dust off walls in the early 20th century was a big thing. Kutol Products made a sticky putty-like substance which, when applied correctly, removed it brilliantly. However, after WW2, most houses moved away from coal-based heating and opted for natural gas. Kutol faced an existential threat.

  • Strength: A Kutol employee noticed nursery school children using the putty as a craft material. He came up with the idea of repositioning the putty as a children’s toy, and rebranding it as Play-Doh. It not only saved the company, it also became the worldwide hit we know today.

From a limited product range to a world leader

  • Weakness: In the early 2000s, Apple had a limited range of products and was known primarily for its Mac computers.

  • Strength: Apple shifted its focus to developing game-changing consumer electronics, such as the iPod, iPhone, and later the iPad. This transformed Apple into a powerhouse in the consumer electronics industry.

From online bookstore to largest online retailer

  • Weakness: Amazon initially had a very limited product range; it was perceived as just an online bookstore.

  • Strength: They expanded their offerings into a wide range of product categories, becoming a one-stop shop. They continued leveraging their customer-centric approach to redefine e-commerce, becoming the world's largest online retailer.


So, what can we take from these examples of triumph over adversity?

Applying the Kintsugi concept to business offers valuable insights and approaches that can foster growth, resilience and innovation.

Here are some examples:

1. Embrace failure and learn from mistakes, to create a stronger and more resilient organisation. Don't look for who to blame.

2. Foster a culture of resilience, by encouraging your team to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change and find new opportunities in challenging situations.

3. Encourage innovation and creativity, by combining established practices with fresh ideas and approaches. Embrace new technologies, and encourage brainstorming and collaboration. Google found that Psychological Safety is the most important determinant of a team's performance.

4. Value and acknowledge client/customer feedback. Don't be defensive. Address concerns or issues with care, and actively seek to repair and strengthen relationships. This creates a sense of trust, loyalty and long-term partnerships with customers. Check out my blog about Service Recovery.

5. Adopt sustainable practices, such as reducing waste, recycling materials, and implementing circular economy principles. By finding ways to repair, repurpose, or extend the lifespan of products or resources (just as Kintsugi does), businesses can contribute to a more sustainable future.


How have you reacted when you’ve spotted a weakness or a threat to your business?

It’s human nature to go into ‘Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn’ mode.

At best, this will give you a short-term fix.

During the Great Recession, one of my clients lost 50% of their revenue overnight. The Board’s instant reaction was to want to let go of half their staff, i.e. a short-term fix.

When, with my guidance, they gathered their Senior Leadership Team together to discuss what to do, one of the team reminded everyone about an excellent opportunity they had spotted years before to pivot their business. They had just never got around to it.

The sudden loss of revenue meant they had no choice. It was pivot or cut staff. They pivoted fast. Like the examples above, the business has thrived ever since.

My challenge to you is to look at all of the weaknesses and threats inside and outside your business. Then ask: how can I turn these into strengths?

As always, I’m here to support you. Contact me if you fancy a chat.


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