From a third party’s point of view some may think that those who made it were lucky that they got an opportunity on their laps and may say “Wish I was so lucky too.” Frankly opportunities are abound everywhere, but you need to be able to identify them, and even if you do, would you know what to do with it?
Identifying opportunities is considered an art by some; they look upon entrepreneurs as some special people who are able to do it better than normal humans. The fact is that this is far from the truth. In my opinion, anyone can do it. It just takes some understanding and practice and the ability to look at things differently. In other words, it is a matter of your mindset. So how does one do it in reality, how do you identify the opportunities around you? You need Understanding and Practice. Let me elaborate.
It is important to first understand yourself very thoroughly; know yourself inside out. What are you good at and what are your weaknesses? It is a time to be truthful to your strengths and a time to face your weaknesses. Once you have identified these correctly, then you can learn to use your strengths and face your weaknesses. Once you sincerely do this you will be able to fit the opportunity to your capability and avoid trying to fix ‘a square peg to a round hole.’
For example, as an entrepreneur I am a good at bringing people together and creating strong successful companies. At the same time, may not be a good designer. So when an opportunity comes my way, I know what good traits I have that can be useful, and what traits I need to learn, or find someone to handle the designing aspect for me. This helps me analyze an opportunity or an idea in the context of what I can do or what I need to do first before in can successfully tap upon an opportunity.
After understanding yourself, , it is important to understand the subject matter and your target market very well. I have a background in engineering, experience in the semi-conductor industry and I have been an entrepreneur for very long. So tapping on my experience and the knowhow of the industry, I am able to understand ideas better and am able to spot opportunities, even in a downturn. Understanding the market and customers is very important as well. When you understand how your customers think and react, you will be able to make a better product for them and you will be able to reach out (marketing) to them better. Also understanding trends that are happening in the market will help you predict the next steps better, as you will be able to gauge what is going to happen. For example, if you were in the CD industry when Napster came along, you would have realized that Mp3’s were the new wave, and perhaps you would have started moving to manufacturing a Mp3 Player; taking advantage of an opportunity, because of your insights.
It will take some time and practice to become seasoned at seeing opportunities before others. The best way to do this is to apply what we have learnt in the past. This is easier said than done so how do we do it? Let me us an example to illustrate how. My colleague in Entrecity, Gurpal’s experience is a good example. For 10 years, he used to look out for new ideas and whenever he saw a new company he liked, he would write down the name and start researching it online, reading about the business and the industry it was in.
From there he would do two things.
It was about keeping notes and researching that helped him understand businesses better. By doing the above 2 exercises, he understood the South East Asian and South Asian regions a lot better as well. Learning how to get businesses started and growing them, and how to get to the customers are all-important things to know before embarking on any business.
There are not many strict rules in entrepreneurship. In fact rules and entrepreneurship don’t sound synonymous. As long as you do not cheat, lie or harm anyone, you can apply many different ideas in many different ways to make your product or service better. It took the world a while to realize that design plays a huge part in product manufacturing. It took some smart people to bring about and experiment with ideas to get some great products invented.
Opportunities are everywhere, but do not expect them to fall into your lap. Instead open your eyes wide, educate yourself to see and understand these opportunities. Only then you will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that come along, making you a very successful entrepreneur. But realize that before you can do it well, you need to know yourself first.