New Business Opportunities: How to Explore without Getting Lost

explore-new-business-opportunitiesLet’s face it. The world of business is a big and sometimes scary place. Given all the risks, for some business owners staying in the comfort zone feels like a very smart choice.

It’s not.

The business climate is constantly changing, so staying put is really falling behind. If you want your business to keep growing, you must consistently seek new opportunities.

How do you find them?

Get Out and Explore

Hunting for new business opportunities can be fun or frightening, depending on your perspective. For many of the passionate leaders I work with, the treasure hunt for growth is so enticing that they sometimes get lost. They head down a trail that seductively beckons “come and see,” without a plan to return to home base.

Are you the kind of person who gets a glimmer of a new idea and then chases it ruthlessly until you hold it in your hand? Then be careful or before you know it, your business could be heading off in a new direction without any strategic intent.

Of course, being opportunistic is a good thing as long as it doesn’t divert you from your true purpose. To avoid the risk put methods in place to identify and evaluate which opportunities are worth your time and effort, and which are better left untapped.

This approach ensures that you’re not missing out on the next big thing, or taking your business down a path to ruin.

Explore New Markets

I spent yesterday with a group of curious business owners. We were at an event hosted by Amex OPEN on the ins and outs of government contracting. 

Those of you who know me understand that this is not my core expertise. However, it is something that’s of interest to some of my clients, and it’s important for me to know enough to point them in the right direction when they need help.

With that in mind, I decided to invest a day learning about the process and talking with other business owners about their experiences. I wanted to see why they found government contracting enticing – or intimidating,

The diverse group of attendees included freshly minted entrepreneurs like Danny, just 10 days into his new venture, along with people like Michael, a veteran small business owner with over 20 years under his belt. It was a broad-spectrum of business owners and it was interesting to hear their thoughts.

After talking with several attendees, I would guess that only about 30% will actively pursue government contracting in the near future. Several more, say 50% will take time to explore further and decide if it’s right for them. The other 20% will probably never do anything more than attend the conference.

And that’s totally okay.

In my experience, it’s better to explore an opportunity and decide it’s not the right fit than to ignore it completely. That way you’re making informed decisions with current information about the industry and your competitors, instead of assuming your current track is the best.

The people in the middle – those who haven’t made up their mind one way or another – are most likely to get lost in the process.

Don’t Get Off Track

When you can’t decide which way to take your business, the risk of getting hopelessly off track increases exponentially. I don’t want that to happen to you, so here are some tips to ensure you’re decisive and confident in the path you choose.

1. Establish decision criteria upfront.

Define what you’re looking for and the data you need to support your decision. Are there revenue or expense metrics that will make this a go or no go decision? What about resources and timing? Create a list of vital questions like,

“Is this worth doing if it takes three months, but not if it takes six?”

“Does this opportunity align with my corporate purpose?”

What’s the payback period for my investment?”

Once you have the answers, make the decision and move on.

2. Set a time limit on your decision.

Allocate a reasonable amount of time to gather the information you need, evaluate what’s at hand, and make a decision. Depending on the complexity of what you’re looking at, this might be a week or even several months.

Set a time frame that’s allows enough time to make an educated decision without falling prey to “analysis paralysis.” Whatever feels right, set a date and stick to it. Remember, speed counts.

3. Use an emissary.

Do you love the process of research?  If you do, you might want to hand the project off to someone else. Why? Because you can spend way too much time savoring the process you enjoy and never make a decision.

Remember, the goal is to move your business forward, not to analyze every single possible angle. Be more productive by asking a key staff member or even someone from your advisory board to gather and condense information for your review.

4. Get outside help.

If you don’t enjoy research or you’re concerned about it eating up precious time you need for running your business, get somebody to help you. Delegate pieces of the project to someone on your team or hire a consultant to run the entire project and provide recommendations at the end. Having an objective third-party involved also takes the emotion out of the process, leading to better business decisions in the end.

5. Find a partner.

At the contracting conference, they called it “teaming.” You might think of this as an alliance, subcontractor agreement or partnership. Whatever you call it, working with somebody who knows the landscape has big benefits.

Being a sub on a government contract, for example, is an excellent way to see if you even like working with the government. If you want to test the waters, look for a partner who can help you get your feet wet without sinking.

Apply these tips and you’ll be ready to discover new business opportunities, pick the best ones, and keep you business growing.

Need some help? Maximize your growth and profitability by working with Joellyn Ferguson as a business coach or consultant. Give her a call at 678.823.8228.

Image by Sanja Gjenero.

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