Could Your Company Be Sitting on Undiscovered Opportunities?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On June 16, 2014

UndiscoveredOppsA lot of business experts will tell you that you need to focus on your areas of core competency. Figure out what you do best, do it better (and differently) than anyone else, and keep improving it. I’ve passed on that advice to clients myself many times.

Sometimes, however, opportunities arise from areas that we consider peripheral to our main focus that can make a significant contribution to our bottom line. As a matter of fact, they may seem so secondary—or behind-the-scenes—to us that their potential is hidden from us. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

When you think of innovative software solutions, Union Pacific Railroad is probably not the first company that comes to mind. After all, this 152-year-old company is known for moving freight on trains—not exactly the cutting edge of technology. As you can imagine, however, there are a lot of details and logistics involved in coordinating all those shipments. As a result, Union Pacific employs some 1,400 IT workers to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Over several decades, Union Pacific’s IT people developed their own software because they weren’t satisfied with the enterprise solutions on the market—even though those solutions were generating $35–$40 million in revenues (from other transportation businesses) every year. Union Pacific is now marketing the solutions they developed for themselves to other corporations with needs similar to their own.

If you want more details on how Union Pacific did this, you can check out this story on fastcompany.com. But here are some final thoughts about finding additional sources of revenue that are peripheral to your main business.

Don’t neglect your core competency. Union Pacific’s focus remains the same. They are not suddenly becoming a software company. They simply found a way to increase revenues by taking advantage of some unused potential.

Make sure what you’re selling really works. Union Pacific had decades of experience using their software in some pretty demanding circumstances. It worked well for them. As a matter of fact, one of their newer developments (a self-described “suggestion box on steroids” had a hug impact on their own business before they ever decided to offer it externally. The application generated some ideas that resulted in multi-millions in savings for the railroad company internally. They felt pretty confident offering it to other businesses.

So, keep your focus, but keep your eyes open for things that have helped you succeed that could offer to others to supplement your existing revenue streams.