Turn Your Threats into Opportunities
''Unscrew it, let's do it.''
By Denise Harrison

During the course of strategic planning your company will look at threats - outside forces that can severely impact your company's success. Often the analysis of threats includes looking at how you:

  1. Prevent the threat from happening
  2. Reduce exposure to the threat
  3. Assure early detection
  4. Develop contingency plans
  5. Hedge against the threat

In addition, you should ask the question: How can we turn this threat into an opportunity? Companies who successfully looked at threats as opportunities have significantly changed their competitive position. For example, in the early days of mutual funds, most brokerage firms viewed the entrance of mutual funds as a threat. In contrast, Charles Schwab, only a regional broker at that time, looked at the entrance of mutual funds as an opportunity and partnered with many mutual fund families. This allowed his customers to buy mutual funds through Charles Schwab instead of having multiple accounts for brokerage and mutual funds. Other brokerage firms, who saw the mutual funds as a threat, chose not to work with them and instead developed their own mutual fund families. The Schwab strategy helped make the company the financial power house that it is today.

Using a Twist to Turn a Threat into an Opportunity

Maverick Enterprises, the leading manufacturer of secondary wine closures for wine bottles saw the advent of twist top caps as a threat to their dominance of the wine closure business. Maverick makes the coverings that go over corked wine bottles to preserve the seal and allow for tamper detection. As the popularity of wine continues to increase, the cork supply has not. Some wineries started using twist tops due to the low supply of corks and the added ease of opening the bottle with a twist top. Originally Maverick saw this as a threat; however, when they realized that twist tops could look like corked bottles they realized they had the ''Best-of-Both'' (or B.o.B. ). They have trademarked and have patents pending for the new closure that has the Best-of-Both:

  1. The customary capsule skirt (looks like a corked bottle)
  2. The screw top that not only allows for easy opening, but easy resealing

In addition, this new product prevents ''corked bottles'' where approximately 3-5% of wine in corked bottles is ruined because it is not properly sealed by the traditional cork. Currently B.o.B.TM is used by Richard Branson's Virgin Vines wine product line under the slogan: ''Unscrew it, let's do it''.

This new closure has additional benefits for Maverick - it can also be used for packing spirits and specialty food, opening up new markets for growth. Recently, Maverick won the 2005 Golden Cylinder Award for Jose Cuervo's Santoro Especial Tequila Bottle.

When you evaluate your threats be sure to look for ways to turn your threats into opportunities rather than simply analyzing ways to mitigate the risk. A glass half empty is also half full.

Denise Harrison is a Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. She can be reached via e-mail at harrison@cssp.com.

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