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How to spot business opportunities

10th June 2016
By Candice Choo

The most successful businesses have one key trait in common – they all started with a great idea. Success doesn’t happen by accident – it’s down to hard graft, but you need a great kernel of an idea to start with. If you’re looking for new opportunities, either to start up on your own or within your company, but are lacking your own ‘eureka!’ moment, here’s how to train yourself to start working up these great opportunities.

Start writing

You don’t have to have the idea yet – just start jotting things down as you live your daily life. By writing a diary in this way, you’ll often find the seeds of an idea start to sow in your mind. Perhaps your commute could be improved. The way you organise your phone diary. Even the way you spend your lunch hour – could you make more of it? Record what people say in meetings, too – inspiration could come from the unlikeliest of places.

Look for the negative

No, that’s NOT in your own attitude – but looking at what people don’t or won’t do can often lead you to finding a solution. “Understanding WHY a customer doesn’t consume is critical,” says the Harvard Business Review. “If it is because existing solutions are too expensive, require specialized skills, or are inconvenient, then innovate away.” For example, Nintendo launched their Wii games console to deliberately target ‘non-consumers’ – those who weren’t already using their products. They created a family-friendly product that targeted a brand-new audience who weren’t already served by Nintendo, and in doing so, massively grew their customer base.

Get personal

This is where that diary will come in handy – and proves the cliché ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is true, as well. By looking at your own life, and what could be improved, or served better, can throw up great business opportunities. Countless hugely successful companies were started when their founders weren’t able to find what they wanted elsewhere. For instance, back in 1993, Chrissie Rucker couldn’t find the ideal white bed linen she wanted, so set up her own business selling it. That small personal problem became the huge multi-million pound business The White Company.

Think big (and small)

Trying to come up with the next huge business disruption isn’t easy, so focusing on how to work up your ideas can help. Look at existing products and services and think – firstly, is there a way this can be scaled up, made mass market? If that doesn’t work, flip it around and see whether you can ‘narrowcast’ it instead. This is a TV term, based on the realisation from US cable networks that they shouldn’t try to reach a mass audience – rather, they should focus on one particular audience and do it really well. Could you apply that niche focus to your business to create new revenues?

Don’t give up

Spotting good business opportunities is a tricky thing to get right, but the important thing is not to give up if it doesn’t work at first. It’ll take time, hard work and constant innovation to make new business avenues work, and you’re bound to fail at least once. Just stay open to new ideas, keep thinking creatively and remember – you might just have that amazing idea that will solve a million customer’s needs tomorrow.