LEARNING FROM ENTREPRENEURS
Richard Branson has done it. So, has Henry Ford and Walt Disney before him. Elizabeth Arden and Amelia Earhart in their different ways also did it. They had one thing in common in that they all took their opportunities.
What can we learn to improve our own chances of success?
The first thing to note is that all those mentioned identified their own strengths. In doing so, they realized they needed to find other people who could assist them in areas their weaker areas. Second, they thought through what deals they wanted to take and which to refuse, if it was not on their game plan.
Both Richard Branson and Henry Ford have negotiated some very good deals. They saw opportunities in markets and mobilised plans for creating wealth and value by giving their clients services and products they wanted.
Walt Disney was more of an artistic developer than an asset negotiator. He took his illustrations, converted them to animations, and created films. He had faith in his ideas and sold the message to others.
Elizabeth Arden watched closely what other people were doing in the cosmetics business. She decided that better products and service could be offered. With elegance and determined effort, she succeeded to grasp her opportunities.
Sir Winston Churchill, the great Prime Minister of Great Britain, said that; ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Columbus saw the opportunity to set sail on voyages to new lands, but the ‘flat earthists’ told him that he would never return.
Marco Polo was offered the opportunity to travel with his father and brought back riches and tales of the orient.
In more modern times, William Boeing saw one of the first planes to fly and decided there was an opportunity to build a business. Now, we fly around the world in Boeing planes.
Henry Ford was born on a farm, but found the power of machines when he went to work in a factory. He perceived people wanted to travel and introduced the mass production of cars.
These are well known examples, but in every village, town and city there are people who have perceived an opportunity and developed it. Many of the best initiatives have been at the voluntary level, where local people have recognized a community need and responded, especially with voluntary and not for profit work. That is how most sports clubs developed in such places. In addition, people developed small business and shops to cater for local needs.
In effect, opportunities are in the mind. If you tune in to what people are saying and doing, you will hear them express needs and want. As a result, you can perceive opportunities. Many businesses have been based on an idea that developed from a short conversation. Great examples jump from the pages of history.
So, the spirit of opportunity and meeting with others to develop it is there in every community. The problems often occur when an organization becomes so established that it loses the original spark that created it. Instead of looking for new opportunities, those employed in the organization restrict their jobs to the role descriptions given. That is when innovation declines and the organization and the individuals within it miss opportunities. As a consultant to medium and large size organizations, I have heard such complaints many times. As a result, the more enterprising people look elsewhere to develop their talent and opportunities.
Analysis is important but action is essential. So, assess your situation.
Your Job – Does the organization encourage you to search for and develop opportunities? Think of specific examples and see if action was taken. If not, was it because you did not promote the opportunity or did others not act on your proposal?
A good way to approach opportunities is to suggest a research project on the issues and a small scale test on the information and ideas emerging. The aim is to build confidence at all levels in the new idea.
Too often opportunities are missed. In medical practice, particularly, some of the best ideas were ignored or rejected. When Dr Louis Pasteur discovered that bacteria were a key factor in the transmission of disease many people ridiculed his proposal. As a result, opportunities were lost. The same happened when Dr Fleming developed penicillin to attack harmful bacteria. His ideas received a variable reception and years were lost in the war on disease, as opportunities for solving the problems were missed.
So, if you see an opportunity find a way of testing it. Then, involve people who have political influence to gain the money and resources to make it work.
Your Hobbies – Opportunities here should be more under your control. However, I have met many people who say that they have missed chances to develop their interests, which they regret. They have excuses, such as they did not have enough time. One answer is to change your priorities to make the time. Opportunities rarely stand still. If we do not take them, they will disappear. Therefore, develop a plan to develop your hobbies, as if they were a business and exploit the opportunities that you find.
In terms of opportunities are you a giver or a receiver? You can of course be both. If you say to someone,’ it could be useful if you came to a meeting we are having,’ then you are giving a strong clue that an opportunity may arise. Some people act and attend. Others are slow and miss the chance. To be a receiver of opportunities listen for the cues and clues people offer. They will not always be obvious. There is an old saying that ‘if you never go you will never know’. You will be offered various opportunities and if you know the direction you want to go then you will be better able to judge which invitations should be accepted.
So, either you take opportunities that are given to you, or you create your own. Time will fly. Those who set objectives and keep to them are more likely to make the best of chances, otherwise they will fail for the want of organization. The great philosopher Seneca said: ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.‘
Start your preparation and make a list of the areas where you see opportunities that you wish to pursue with regard to both business and hobbies.