Problems Create Opportunities how to Harness those

Tips for solving financial problems

The topic does not state whether these are personal or business financial problems, but by implication, personal. However, I am going to make some comments on business, to then apply the lessons to the personal.

What is a problem?

For some, it is a total obstruction, a kind of road block, that takes insurmountable proportions. It becomes impossible to take one’s eyes off the problem. A biblical illustration may help. Jesus had risen on Easter morning. The tomb was empty, and he appeared to Mary and some disciples. Later that day, two disciples were walking to a nearby town, when Jesus walked up to them and joined them. They were so obsessed with the events of the crucifixion, and the reports that he had risen, that they did not recognise him. They could not see past the problem.

A problem is actually an opportunity.

The skill comes in recognising that, and using it creatively.

The western world has gone through a period of economic slow-down. The reaction of accountants (self-named financial experts) is to cut costs in every possible way. Planned expenditure, whether for maintenance or expansion, is severely impacted, and staff complements shrink. All because accountants are a strange breed, perhaps not even really human, and know no other way.

Other articles on this topic have all emphasised the need for a plan.

Absolutely. If the problem is to be turned into an opportunity planning is desperately needed.

But, a plan on its own is not enough.

There is a proverb which says, “Where there is no vision, the wheels come off” (I paraphrase). In a corporate context, the business executives must take time to gather, and workshop what the creative response should be to this opportunity that has presented itself. The vision statement that is produced must be succinct, but not a slogan like Nike’s “Just do it.”

Flowing out of the vision statement should be a set of attainable, quantifiable, measurable goals.

These goals then generate plans. What has to be done (a sequence of events)? When? By whom? At what cost (a budget)?

A further problem with accountants is that they will be too busy counting beans to attend such envisioning workshops, so they do not have the total picture. The executives (the company’s leaders) correctly hand over the budget to the accountants to manage. The accountants see the budget as being ‘the plan’, and proceed to cut and mutilate to ‘cut costs’ without realising the damage they are doing to the actual plan, and undermining the company’s vision.

Applying the corporate scenario to personal financial problems.

For most people, the problems are going to revolve around there not being enough money coming in, to meet what needs to be spent.

I live in South Africa, where the trade union movement (Cosatu) and the communist party (SACP) have an unholy alliance with the governing African National Congress.

The workers are encouraged to think of their employers as the enemy, who are limiting their income by refusing to pay them what they are worth (or think they are worth). So, at any moment hordes of workers are destroying infrastructure as part of their bargaining process for more income. Perhaps this is carefully orchestrated by the SACP and Cosatu to bring down the ANC government, and take over; but that is a topic for another time.

My shortage of income is not my employer’s problem.

What is the actual problem, and what opportunity does it create?

Start, just like in the corporate scenario above, get all family members together, and develop your vision of where you want to be, in the next year, 5 years, ten years. Then create goals and plans of how to get there.

These may involve cutting expenditure – particularly of luxury items. Who cares if you are driving a battered old Golf car and not a luxury BM-TroubleYou? If you are worried about what the neighbours will think, become an evangelist for the good news of cutting your coat to fit the cloth.

But, perhaps more importantly, you may look for other ways of generating income. What skills have you got that you can use to generate income from home. Perhaps you have an academic qualification, say a Masters or Doctorate degree. Can you find people who are struggling academically, and help them to write their academic thesis – and charge them a reasonable fee for doing it?

Just as in the corporate environment, you plan must show the financial implications – a budget. Perhaps you need to employ one of your company’s accountants to show you how to maintain the discipline of cutting costs (joke). Recognise that, just as in the corporate scene, there may need to be some specific spending to enable you to make your opportunity really come alive for you.

There are lots of places for getting help to get back on financial track, particularly if you have incurred big debts with their heavy load of interest payments. Use them, as part of your vision, goals and plans for the future.