Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Turn Adversity into Opportunity

A Lesson From Google

Every self-help book has something similar to the following: “Inside every disaster there is an opportunity hiding.” I was always skeptical of this attitude, until a little adversity came my way.

I used Google to host a web site for me. As I mention in the eBook, I like Google web sites when you start a business because they are easy to put together, give several different template options, and most importantly, they generate a site map for you and index your site very easily. This gives you a better chance being found by their search engine.

There are two downsides, however, to using these sites:
1. Flexibility. For the most part you have to design within their template constraints. This can make your site look cookie-cutter.
2. You have to play by their rules. That’s where I got into trouble.
One morning I went to my Google site and a yellow banner came across the top that told me, “This site has been suspended for violation of our Terms of Service.” Yikes!

Google did not tell me what I had done wrong, only that I had violated the terms. They did give me a link to dispute their decision and a link to the Terms of Service for me to figure out the violation myself. After reading the terms, I guessed that the site was suspended because of a parity video I had created using my wife. It was a take-off on the Charles Schwab commercials. It had that “cartooner” effect the Schwab commercials had been using. So, I took the video off the site and wrote Google asking if we were friends now and if I could have my site back. Of course, there was no immediate response.

Panic setting in. This was my main site for my sales copywriting business. If people could not get to it how would I get business? If people saw that threatening banner at the top what kind of credibility would I have? How could people trust me with their sites? Is Google putting me out of business?

Breathe. The truth of the matter is that I had wanted to create my own pages for my business and host them with another provider but I had been putting it off. I had already created one site to give away this eBook on starting a business from scratch, and I thought it would be nice to have my sales copywriting pages have the same look and feel. But everything else took priority. Now it was time to buckle up and the pages done. I had no choice.
Take action. So, I jumped in and gave it priority. Within one day I had converted most of what people visiting my site would need to see if they wanted to hire me and I really liked the way it came out. I think it makes a much better impression and I’m already having better results. Taking action is the key to opening the opportunity door. Contrary to “secret” believers, you cannot just wish it to happen. You have to do something about your situation and put all your mental energies into it.

The Lessons. You usually don’t knowingly walk into adversity. Somehow you just end up there. But when it strikes, you have a choice to make: Wait for things to get better or take action yourself and try to turn the adversity into an opportunity. There a lot of lessons for entrepreneurs to be learned from what happened to me and how you can apply them to your business. Here are a few:
1. Don’t ever forget – Nothing in business is ever really free. If it was, it would be called a charity and not a business. Google gives away a lot of software for free because they tie it back to the advertising revenue model. And they do it very well. Google gives good, quality software at no cost. You can do a lot without spending anything. But you are playing in their sand box and have to play by their rules.
2. Make sure you have a backup plan for areas that are critical to your business. Don’t just think about it. Get them ready to go at a “Violations” moment’s notice. Your list should be prioritized and have the items that will shut you down listed at the top.
3. Don’t be lazy by thinking you will get it done but, “it’s such a hassle and I have important things I have to take care of.” Set aside a half hour a day and go through your list of critical areas to your business. Knock off a piece each day until you feel comfortable. (Don’t forget about data backups. Most people do forget to back up their data until it’s tragically too late. Thumb drives are ridiculously inexpensive these days.)
4. There really can be opportunity in adversity. You just need to stay calm, make a plan and take action. I’m a true believer now.

Google finally did write back to me. Their team said I could not use that particular site but I was welcome to create a new Google Site. It turns out I had a “link referral” on my site. Google does not allow those types of links on their sites. When you start a business from scratch, you need to know the ground rules for every part of your business.

No comments: