Aug. 12 2019 06:00 AM

How you think about your business may need to change to fit changing times.

Are you waiting for that next green industry business growth opportunity to knock on your door? Funny thing about that — it may already be right there in front of you, and you just haven’t recognized it yet because it doesn’t fit your paradigm, the way you think about your business.

Paradigms are patterns or frameworks through which we view things and use to solve problems. As futurist Joel Barker states, “With an outdated or ineffective paradigm, your business could be headed toward extinction. With the right kind of paradigm, your small business will thrive in today’s economy.”

Every business owner or manager has a set of business paradigms that govern the way they think and act in the situations they find themselves in. But when the situations change drastically from what they were before, the old paradigms may not work anymore. It may be time to find some new ones.

New challenges

It’s safe to say that many green industry business owners have never experienced anything like what they’re experiencing in today’s marketplace. For example, here are just a few of the challenges facing green industry business owners today:

  • There’s more competition than ever.
  • It’s become extremely hard to find and retain good employees.
  • Recreational marijuana has been legalized.
  • There are concerns about the effects of global warming.
  • Customer expectations are changing.

What business am I really in?

When it comes to looking for your next green industry business growth opportunity in the face of this, we need to ask ourselves a few questions.

The first one is: What business are you really in? Years ago, the railroad industry thought it was in the “railroad business.” Big mistake! So when the newly created airline industry wanted to form a partnership with the railroad barons, they scoffed at the idea. They didn’t foresee how this new industry was going to change things, and as history tells us, it was all downhill for the railroads from that point on.

They had the wrong paradigm, you see. They thought they were in the railroad business, when in reality, they were in the transportation business, the business of moving people and goods from one place to another. Today the railroads are barely surviving because they didn’t respond correctly to that challenge a long time ago.

One way to learn more about which business you are really in is to ask your clients. They’re the experts when it comes to what they want and need from a small business, yet too often the owners of small businesses only guess at that. As a result, they miss the mark and don’t really give the cutomer what they are looking for.

How about your business? Once you know what kind of business you’re really in, you can go to work developing a strategy to accurately fulfill your clients’ needs and wants. But you can’t do it if you’re working under outdated assumptions.

So how do you change your business paradigms? Have you ever heard the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? That seems like common sense, but you could be operating from an unconscious paradigm that says the opposite: “I only see what I believe.” You might be unable to recognize a situation for what it really is, because you believe it must be a certain way.

Remember, there are several different ways to tackle any business problem. Be careful not to let your paradigm become “the” paradigm, the only right way forward. Paradigms too strongly held can lead to paradigm paralysis, a terminal disease of certainty.

Opportunities in disguise

In challenging times such as these, it’s best to remain flexible and keep our paradigms pliant. Asking yourself action-oriented questions can help you change outdated thinking and develop more successful solutions to your business problems.

Are there recurring complaints you keep hearing from your customers or employees? That’s a clue that something needs to change. Ask yourself, “How can I turn those complaints into an opportunity to serve them better?”

As Thomas Edison once said, “Oftentimes, opportunity is missed because it comes dressed in work clothes.” An important moneymaking opportunity may present itself in the guise of a problem.

Let’s take a closer look at how this might play out.

Awhile back, I was consulting with the successful owner of a car wash chain. One of his operations was located on a very busy seven-lane street. His customers, who mostly came in after work, kept complaining that it was very difficult to make the left-hand turn into that location in afternoon rush-hour traffic.And it was harder still to make another left to exit into that traffic once they were done.

As we thought through this potential problem/opportunity, the owner found that he could make it easier for his customers to both enter and exit the car wash simply by opening up an hour earlier in the morning. His customers could wash their cars on their way to work and avoid fighting traffic on the way home. He also added a “happy hour” incentive: Anyone coming in between 7 and 8 a.m. would receive discounts or free additional services.

Success came from changing his paradigm from “my customers want to wash their cars after work” to “my customers want to wash their cars before work because the traffic is lighter.” It’s a great example of taking a recurring customer complaint and turning it into an opportunity.

How about you, in your green industry business or organization? Could there be something that needs to change in your approach to your clients, your employees or both? Here are some questions you and your leadership team can ask yourselves:

  • Are we receiving repeated complaints?
  • How can we turn those complaints into an advantage over our competitors?
  • What problems are we having in hiring and retaining employees? With employee performance? With process or workflow?
  • What creative new solutions could we try?

Before tackling your next business problem, ask yourself and your team: “What paradigms are we viewing this through and do they need to change?” Then you can unleash your collective creativity to turn the obstacle into a profitable opportunity.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or, or visit