Creatively turn your problems into opportunities

How one company turned a near-disaster into a business management program

Creatively turn your problems into opportunities

by Jason Forrest, CEO of Forrest Performance Group

If you want more drive from yourself and your teammates in your mortgage company, look for chances to creatively turn your problems into opportunities. This is the absolute best way to establish yourself as the most innovative mortgage company on the block, and your customers will love you for it.

At my company, FPG, we certainly had plenty of chances to turn problems into opportunities in our early days.

As we grew in clientele, business and employees early on, we became one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. almost overnight. But we quickly realized the hard way that we didn’t have the processes in place on the back end to properly support that growth moneywise. So even as we grew hand over fist, we suddenly realized one month we were dangerously close to missing our payroll. We almost didn’t have the money available to pay our staff.

This sparked our leadership team into a frenzy of planning. Over a period of about two weeks, we put in 16-hour days trying to come up with a solution on the back end to support what we were doing on the front. We were dangerously close to ‘revenuing’ ourselves into bankruptcy, and if we didn’t find a way around the problem we’d go under almost as quickly as we rose.

Not only did we fix our budget, but we began putting a number of processes in place that stabilized our internal operations and allowed us to grow externally and accept more clients and employees. Not only that, but we wanted to find a creative way to turn our problem into something creative that could help others. So we morphed the lessons we learned into a full-fledged program that we teach to our clients on how to manage their business blueprint. One of our darkest days became one of our most creative triumphs.

One of the greatest signs that your employees are in drive is that they use these problems creatively in order to turn them into opportunities for the future. As a team, having an eye trained on using every circumstance for your benefit shows you’re truly accessing your drive. If you can’t initially get a customer qualified, what steps can you take to work around the problem to close the deal? If you’re struggling to put a complex issue into layman’s terms for a client, how can you come up with a way to explain it more clearly?

The story of how Twitter came to be is maybe the biggest testament to creative thinking in the face of a problem in startup history.

Twitter actually started as Odeo, a hub for finding and downloading podcasts. But their timing in rolling out their software wasn’t ideal. At about the same time as Odeo was set to release, Apple announced their

iTunes platform was about to become a podcast-hosting behemoth. Today, Apple’s podcast hub is the most popular and heavily-used podcasting app in the world, and iTunes does more podcasting traffic than anywhere.

The guys from Odeo didn’t know this for certain at the time, but they could feel that their software was about to be made obsolete by a much bigger, more powerful competitor. So they got together and brainstormed, realizing that they needed to rip up their plan and start from scratch again. Their small staff split into groups and conducted all-night “hackathons,” where they threw ideas against a wall while working on new code.

Finally, the idea arrived: a chatting client that allowed people to share messages and thoughts with one another. After some fine-tuning, Twitter emerged from that brainstorming. And today it’s a multi-billion dollar company used by everyone from friends to businesses to the president of the United States.

Problem-solving on a daily basis isn’t something we often think too deeply about. We simply do it; we brainstorm or rack our brain for ideas or talk it out with a coworker. But there’s scientific backing to having a tactical approach to mentally tackling problems to turn them into creative windfalls.

Former Stanford mathematician George Polya came up with a four-step thought process of puzzling out a problem in a kind of circle. First, understand the problem to get at the heart of what it is, because without knowing the issue there’s no way to solve it. Second, it’s important to find a way to connect your problem to a plan. How will I work my way through this? Third, it’s about coming up with a concrete way to execute the plan, and finally completing the circle by looking back and examining the process that brought you through to the end. Was it effective? If not, why?

This is exactly how we navigated around our payroll problem to create a program to help teach others. When we’re able to get creative in the face of our biggest challenges, there will always be opportunities on the other side of the climb.


Jason Forrest is the CEO at Forrest Performance Group in Fort Worth, Texas. Jason is a leading authority in behavior change and an expert at creating high-performance sales and best-place-to-work cultures through complete training programs. FPG has won five international awards for its behavior change programs in sales, leadership and customer service. Connect with Jason @jforrestspeaker on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.