When it comes to new opportunities, you must look beyond everyday needs to new or emerging needs.

One of your most important tasks as the leader of a contracting firm is ferreting out and pointing to the next new business opportunity. Business opportunities come about as a result of a need. When it comes to new opportunities, you must look beyond everyday needs to new or emerging needs. New or emerging needs, like all needs, may be traced to a problem of one kind or another.

These days there is no shortage of new or emerging needs among our customers, building owners and homeowners. Building owners are facing new concerns for safety, security and energy efficiency while budgets don’t have room for addressing any but the most mission-critical needs. Many homeowners in this country are faced with the task of keeping their homes in the face of layoffs in many areas.

In our own business we have a plethora of needs: an economy that hasn’t found its legs yet, yielding sales and cash flow issues in many areas as a result; insurance rates that seem to know no bounds; changing product demands that require new investments in machinery and training — and a persistent lack of qualified people to train; mold, spores and mildew; and new building code demands.

We have talked a lot lately about new opportunities where meeting our customers’ needs are concerned, such as offering low-slope systems to meet new reflectivity standards and better quality roofing “systems” to homeowners. There are, however, business opportunities in the issues faced by roofing contractors as well; even the issues that would seem to be completely out of your control (which most of them are).

How do you turn a serious business problem into a positive thing? There are a number of ways to approach this, but the first thing to remember is that in the competitive marketplace, everyone else (your competition) is up against the same set of problems. One of the best ways to turn a negative into a competitive edge is by focusing on the problem, learning all you can about it, and leveraging that knowledge to better your position in the market. You may find tremendous benefit in learning or re-learning everything you can about business insurance. You may find an entirely new business as a result of problems with mold in buildings. If mold in buildings is as huge as many lawyers think it is, someone will have to inspect and find solutions to the problems, some of which may involve destructive testing and other roofing work.

Maybe the slow economy is your chance to break into the repair business as a serious part of your ongoing enterprise. Building owners and homeowners may choose not to re-roof or build a new building or house, but they will always do the minimum to take care of what they own. No matter how slow the economy gets, Mother Nature is going to continue to exact a toll on homes and buildings.

You may want to take a planning approach. Pick out the one or two key issues you are going to dig into and focus on turning them into cash or a competitive advantage. Let your troops in on the action. Find out what their issues are and get their take on possible solutions. Take some time with your customers to learn from them how they deal with some of these issues. They may be astounded that you come to them for advice, but they may also appreciate the fact that you honor their expertise. After all, general contractors, building owners and managers face many of the same issues as you.

The ability to meet our customers’ needs is the reason we have a business in the first place. Rather than grousing about the issues of the day, celebrate them as new ways to improve your business. Today’s sore spot may be tomorrow’s sweet spot.