We’ve all heard the story of the kindly cop who came upon a man searching for his car keys under the streetlight at night. When the police officer asked the man if this was the last place he’d remembered seeing his keys, the man replied, “Oh, no! The last time I saw them was about 20 yards from here. But the light is so much better here!”
As much as we may laugh at the man searching for his keys under the streetlight, many of us look for new business opportunities in much the same way. We take the same approach that everyone else takes. We do the same things. We go where “the light is better” and then wonder why we don’t find what we’re looking for.
Business opportunities are out there, but sometimes they’re lurking in the shadows. They may not be obvious at first glance—but that’s why they’re opportunities: Others haven’t seen them, yet either!
Lori Ann LaRocco is the senior talent producer for CNBC. In her recent book, Opportunity Knocking: Lessons From Business Leaders, she talks about how to take advantage of opportunity. Click here to check out Opportunity Knocking, but here are a few ideas you can explore on your own.
Take Advantage of Momentum: Sometimes smaller businesses can take advantage of the momentum that larger companies create. Let’s say you’re a software company and a big software developer creates a lot of buzz with the introduction of a really good enterprise software solution. They’re really not your competition (They’re going for huge clients and your sweet spot is small-to-medium businesses). But they’ve really come up with a great solution. Can you ride the momentum of what they are doing and develop something that fits your market—a market that’s too small for them to bother with, but which is perfect for you?
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No to Opportunity: We sometimes get drawn in to pursuing exciting opportunities that simply don’t fit our core competency or skill set. Still we are tempted to look at something that is a real and legitimate opportunity and think: “If I don’t jump on this, someone else will.” It may be true that someone else will seize the opportunity and run with it if you don’t. But if it doesn’t fit your mission statement or your capabilities it’s not a good opportunity for you.
Turn the Tables: Sometimes bad things happen to good businesses. Your business may run into the occasional buzz saw that threatens to rip you apart (or at least deal you a significant setback). Can you use unfortunate events to your advantage? When New Jersey banned Tesla from selling cars in the state, it looked like it could spell real trouble for the innovative car company. But Tesla took advantage of “bad news” and used it to garner a lot of positive public opinion. New Jersey’s ban gave Tesla a lot of free media exposure—and it may lead to a whole new way of doing business. And as of right now, it doesn’t appear that the ban has hurt their sales.
The point of all this is that sometimes business opportunities aren’t to be found in the glare of the spotlight. If you’re looking for them, you may have to venture out a little ways from where “the light is good” and find your opportunities in the shadows.