By Kalina Gendel
Let’s face it. Challenges facing small businesses are a dime a dozen. The pressure of growing, evolving, remaining relevant, not to mention issues of cash flow and what’s happening on your P&L. Thankfully, there is a ton of advice out there about what actions business leaders can take to address their issues, but what if we took it a step further? What if we changed the way we look at those challenges altogether?
What if we completely alter our perspective and start looking at the issues that plague our businesses as opportunities for growth and change? Changing our mindsets is the first step towards greatness.
I look at my own career and can empathize with the fatalists. I spent much of my early career focusing on hypotheticals and what-if scenarios that I would consistently lose sleep and be tortured by the dooms-day scenarios I conjured up in my head. What if the product didn’t deliver on time? What if we missed a major launch? What if our new product didn’t meet customer expectations? Challenges are omnipresent, but trying to control every issue isn’t an option, the only thing we can control is our mindset and how we approach issues that arise.
My mom (who also happens to be my boss) called me last year with an idea to grow our business. The plan included hiring my ex-husband. Talk about a challenge! Most people think I am crazy when I tell them I work with my ex-husband. But when my mom first brought this up and walked me through the opportunities he’d be able to open up for our business, I was able to understand that the possibility of growth outweighed any personal problems I may have had with the arrangement. I took a challenging situation and turned it into an opportunity to expand our business into a new category.
Now, I know that most people don’t have to work with their ex on a daily basis, but the lessons around resiliency and turning challenges into opportunities are universal.
Another challenge I’ve faced over the years is joining my family’s business and trying to make my mark on the company as a “second generation” leader. I remember when I first joined our company; it was a time when stats on family businesses surviving past the first generation were at an all-time low. It seemed like the numbers were stacked against me before my first day even started. I remember meeting so many people in the first few months who all weighed in on the probability of me coming up short. ‘Oh, it must be nice, having a job handed to you…’ or ‘you have big shoes to fill, your mom is amazing.’
These comments became my motivation – I turned their negative vibes into fuel for excelling in my new role. I eagerly analyzed our business in new and different ways, I offered alternate perspectives on old issues, I was full of fresh ideas. My place in the business had nothing to do with nepotism – my mother saw a need to bring in a younger generation to keep the business progressing. She knew the only way to keep growing was through evolution, and that evolution was not going to come from just her and my dad. I laugh now when I look back. My parents, my younger sisters and me may be from different generations, but each of us plays an integral part in that growth.
Identifying white space in the market is another challenge that I’ve faced, and one that could be looked at as an opportunity. Coming up with new ideas is not easy, yet identifying white space is essential for making new products people want to buy. For instance, we recently released our latest T-Shirt bra. It’s a challenge every time we set out to design a new bra, but it’s especially hard when it’s a signature style. This is a silhouette that has been reinvented countless times by us and other designers over the years. So, we really challenged ourselves to do it one more time. Approaching this as an opportunity to find a way to add new features or design tweaks so that it felt like a fresh, new product – a natural progression of past iterations. With every product launch, we spend countless hours going through our assortment, analyzing the industry and identifying upcoming trends that we can translate into styles that make sense and serve a purpose. We are constantly pushing ourselves – connecting with our customers and listening to each individual when she likes or doesn’t like a product. In turn, our customers have opened up new opportunities for us – helping us identify the white space, and we are always ready and willing to fill the void to make her happy.
Whether its big business challenges or minor problems that arise, I challenge you to change your mindset. Hurdles are nothing more than an opportunity for your business to progress.
Kalina Gendel, Chief Operating Officer at The Gendel Girls, the family behind Breezies, one of QVC’s most successful intimates brands. In her role, Kalina oversees everyday operations, quality control, and overall business strategy. While her focus is on fashion and sales, her true passion lies in analytics and logistics.