Opportunities to Succeed
by Paul Dillon of Workfront Management Services.
The Collins English dictionary defines opportunity as - a fit or convenient time; a good chance – synonyms used are; timely, seasonable, favourable. Or, in other words;
a realistic avenue for future development, somewhere an organisation has the most immediate potential to take advantage of a unique selling point or some other advantage.
Businesses exist in complex internal and external environments. It is the nature of these environments to be constantly changing. Correct decision making or how best to deploy the firm’s resources to opportunities (or threats) is commonly made through the use of a SWOT Analysis. SWOT is an acronym of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
A SWOT Analysis examines the internal environment of the firm (or organization) – elements such as its mission (statement), its objectives, resources etc in order to define its particular strengths and weaknesses. The SWOT Analysis also examines the external environment - elements such as; demographics, economic conditions, technology, social and cultural issues, legal and political issues (existing and pending) and often, natural forces, in order to identify opportunities and threats
A SWOT Analysis, like a balance sheet, is only a "snapshot" - a picture taken at a particular point in time, an overview of the situation. Its purpose is to facilitate the defining and development of strategies that will change the environment – by building on strengths to take advantage of opportunities to eliminate weaknesses and overcome threats. It is essential to review the outcomes of the implementation of the strategies derived from a SWOT analysis to assess the new situation, and take advantage of further opportunities revealed.
For the purpose of this discussion, opportunities will be the principal focus – they are the catalyst for strategies and the main reason that businesses are started.
Opportunitiescould well be summarised as, for example; Where are the good chances for the business? What interesting trends are emerging?
Practical opportunities can emerge from such areas as: technology changes; changes in the markets on both a micro and macro scale; changes in government policy related to the industry, or kindred industries; changes in social behaviour, population demographics, lifestyle changes, local events etc.
Too often, though, small or micro business operators shun the theoretical approach in the belief, or hope, that they are too small too carry out the disciplines or to be affected by the elements. The fundamentals of business however never alter. The scale may differ, the names and catch cries change but, and it is worth repeating that in business as in life, the fundamentals never alter.
The proper analysis of a situation and the identification of real opportunities is probably even more vital for the micro business person than it is for large corporations. Businesses based in the home, even with the advantages of low operating overheads, generally don’t have resources to spare on speculation – what resources they have go on the line with every marketing decision. The resources must be deployed against very real and practical, identified, existing now, opportunities – not comfortable assumptions.
Finding and collating the information needed to conduct a SWOT analysis is commonly known as research, or, in plain speak, looking around. Looking around for suitable opportunities within the capabilities of the business. It is the simple act, (or even pastime), of looking around, that can allow the micro business operator to conduct useful research to reveal opportunities, both existing and in trends. As usual – your eyes will tell you more than your ears ever will.
Useful information can be accessed through a variety of sources, many of which are free or at least available at a low cost. Whether the business is operating locally, or on a broader scale, the information sources remain essentially common. Advertising in national newspapers and on television is mostly too costly for small and micro businesses – but the advertisements they publish or show are a good source of information as to what people are buying (or are being introduced to).
The manner in which the products/services are being promoted, the messages being used to connect, reveal what the expensive and extensive market research has revealed that consumers want or will react to. Small businesses please take note.
If the micro business is operating locally, as so many do, then the buying habits and local demographics are quite easy to come by. The NSW Department of State and Regional Development for example, has a number of publications containing regional profiles that can assist businesses of all sizes. Local papers not only carry news of local issues that can give insight into how the local population feels and thinks and what is important to them but also an extensive list of the businesses servicing the community’s needs – otherwise known as the classified section.
The classified section has the names addresses and contact details of people who can be suppliers, customers or competitors, and often some indication of pricing. Generally, what they are selling is what people are buying – and can suggest opportunities to join in the market or supply to those supplying the market. Businesses need to buy as well as sell – and in these classifieds, quite often the suppliers to and customers for, the micro business are laid out. Monitoring all these media over time can also reveal emerging trends – otherwise known as opportunities.
Another simple way to research the market place is to spend some time in shopping centres, particularly the shopping malls. For example, pretty much the same things are available in each, but is there one that has something missing? – is there an opportunity to enter an established market? Conversely, what is being sold? how is it being presented? is the shop busy?
Watch how people behave in the super market, what is coming off the shelf (what is attracting them) and, ultimately, walking through the food court, what is in the shopping bags and trolleys? That is, who won and why? Who recognized the opportunity and responded most effectively to it?
There are, of course, a great many ways to identify opportunities beyond those mentioned here. Two very critical messages though, regarding opportunities need to be kept in mind – Firstly, no matter how tough the (economic) times are, there are always opportunities - they just exist in different places and look different to those we are accustomed to seeing, ie they are less obvious. Secondly, some training in how to discern and take advantage of opportunities is essential, particularly to the small or micro business person.
Perhaps the most important opportunity then is the opportunity to learn about opportunities. Look around.
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