By Joanne Mansell
When Linda asked me to be the guest editor, my first thought was "what a great opportunity."
As guest editor I had to choose a theme and invite friends and colleagues to contribute articles. [luckily for you the reader, the Work from home team does the editing and proof reading side of things].
I have brought together a number of opportunities that either I discovered recently and wish I’d known about sooner, or opportunities that helped me when I was starting my business.
In general terms the opportunities relate to information, education and motivation.
I’d like to remind you to make sure you make the most of the opportunities in this magazine. Call for the free reports, use the advice and "first session free" offers. I am sure we all know that in small business and home based business we have to work smarter (and find ways to have others work harder) and very cost effectively. If you apply the information in these articles I am certain it will have a huge impact on your business, as well as improving your Mind, Body and Life (and Business) Fitness.
Later, I’ll be talking about how to make the most of the opportunities we have. From a coaching point of view we need to notice what stops us from recognising or taking opportunities.
First let me introduce the other articles I hope you will enjoy and find useful:
How to make the most of opportunities….
What happens in your life when Opportunity comes knocking?
Tick the box that is most like your response to Opportunity Knocking at the door:
Some people invite opportunity with open arms, others fear it. Many don’t even realise it was there in the first place. Particularly in small business, people are so busy running the home or running the business that they don’t have the time to capitalise on opportunities.
What stops us making the most of Opportunities?
The FUD factor. Think Elmer Fudd trying to hunt Bugs Bunny (that "wascaly wabbit").
He has an intention (to catch Bugs) but he is not very effective! The FUD factors are well intentioned, by making you think about an opportunity without leaping in, but often are not very effective because we can easily become paralysed or overwhelmed by Fear, Uncertainty or Doubt.
What if it won’t work? What if I lose my money/business/family… What if someone else does it first? Often the "What ifs" take longer than taking action. Make an assessment of the opportunity and situation then take action. Having a strong belief in the decision and clear reasons why you chose that path will help your resolve to continue. In some cases your accountant can help you decide what the opportunity is worth (how much you should pay) and whether or not it is a "good deal".
What is it you fear? What are the consequences of this "worst case" event happening?
More "What ifs" and a measure of "oh, I don’t know! What do you think?"
What do you need to know to become certain and make a decision?
Ask people who are experts and qualified in the area. If it is a business opportunity around expansion of the business or product lines then your accountant is probably the best person to ask – they will help you assess the cost against the projected returns and usually evaluate the risk as well. Consider information from industry bodies that can help you determine what is happening in the industry, what competitors are doing and what Government or legislative changes may happen.
If it seems too good to be true, notice why you thought that. Examine the assumptions you have made about the opportunity. Check in with your self-image – often we feel something is "too good to be true" because we believe we don’t deserve the success or the happiness. What do you really believe you deserve? How does this opportunity relate to that?
We can doubt ourselves, doubt the product/business or doubt the combination of the two. If you think someone else could make it work, why do you think you couldn’t? Notice the beliefs about yourself, your business and your abilities that are causing the doubt. Honestly evaluate the causes of the doubt and work out solutions. If you doubt that the price is right you can resolve that by shopping around so you know what the price should be.
And of course there is the danger of failing to recognise the opportunity in the first place…
Aussies are famous for the "she’ll be right mate!" attitude. This complacency can be dangerous. If we get too caught up in the "doing" part of our business, the world evolves around us and we can’t survive. There’s a great WorldGAMES game "Dew Rustic Park" to illustrate this. For more information on WorldGAMES see the article on the Management Toolkit. We need to evolve to survive. By trying to simply survive, few do.
Business Guru’s like Michael Gerber (The E-myth. Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it) share the theme and idea that if you still do business the way you did 5 years ago, you are going out of business. With the rate of information exchange and the Internet this could even be if you are still doing business the same as last year (or the year before) you are going out of business.
What are some of the big changes in the last year? The downturn in the Australian Dollar (lately referred to as the "Pacific Peso"), GST has been introduced and the Olympics have been and gone.
The Internet has continued to grow, as has education and personal growth industries and services (rather than goods) have become the "next big thing". Few people had heard of "Life Coaching" this time last year. All of these things are opportunities, unless you choose to see them as threats. How has your business adapted to or incorporated these changes. Have you reacted to them?
Time and Money
For most small businesses the biggest barrier to taking an opportunity is a lack of time, money or both. You’ve heard the expression "saving for a rainy day?" That could be preparing for a threat (oh dear, the roof sprung a leak) or an opportunity (lets buy a few umbrellas and sell them off at a local event).
It’s wise to put aside some money into a "just in case" fund. This can deal with unexpected expenses to cover new licences/memberships, car or other machinery repairs, or to capitalise on opportunities. Have you ever found out about a great tip for shares, or a supplier having a sale or something "too good to miss" but you had to miss out because you didn’t have the money? Putting aside money will help prevent that. Just make sure you choose wisely where, when and how to spend it.
Similarly, put aside time each week to research and investigate opportunities. When something comes up, you have the time to make an informed decision rather than a rushed guess.
How do you tell an opportunity from a threat?
I remember hearing or reading somewhere the idea that the Chinese character for opportunity is comprised of ‘luck’ and ‘crisis’ – to that it is simultaneously ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I found that in Japanese Kanji "opportunity" and "crisis" both share a character with the idea of "performing a function". So it is possible to interpret that as a function or event happens and it is up to us to decide whether it is an opportunity or a threat. This is really one of the ideas behind a SWOT analysis. If you want to know more about SWOT there is an excellent article in this issue by Paul Dillon.
A colleague recently told me that "it’s like a law of physics – there is always the same number of opportunities around. They just change shape, size and location".
Think of a coin. Let’s call one side "threat" and the other "opportunity". Which side you are looking at determines what you see. Whether you are currently seeing a threat or an opportunity, you need to consider the other side before deciding how to act.
Think about the big events in your life. Things like meeting your spouse, finding the house you live in or starting your business. Did someone whisper to you "psst this is a great opportunity", or was there a neon sign flashing above it saying "opportunity, this way". Maybe you felt "shaken" or "tingly" and excited. Whatever happened, it is useful for you to be aware of how you recognised a good opportunity. Contrast this by noticing what you saw, heard of felt when you discovered something that turned out to be a bad opportunity, or at least an opportunity that was best left untaken. Most people do notice a difference in themselves before they made the decision how to act. This is your subconscious mind (or intuition) trying to give you signals.
Some common opportunities to look for:
I think I’ve seen an Opportunity – now what?
Here are some questions to help you figure out what to do about it:
Is it really an opportunity or a distraction? Keep in mind that time you are away from income-producing activities is a drain on your business.
What time and resources will it require? Really think about this. If you take up an advertising offer it appears to only require money. It will also require time for you to plan the copy and layout.
What are the potential pitfalls? What could go wrong? By being aware the dangers you can work at avoiding them.
How do these weigh against the potential benefits? What are the best things that can happen? Project the result of the opportunities – how many customers or sales should it produce?
What is the risk to me and my business? Will this opportunity leave me exposed or strengthen my business?
What is the time frame before I see a return? Can my money, time and resources be spent more beneficially elsewhere during this period? This can be referred to as "opportunity cost".
It is an opportunity that I am not in a position to take advantage of on my own - What external resources are available in terms of assistance or even an alliance/partnership so this opportunity does not pass me by?
Don’t overcommit by putting all your time or financial resources into an opportunity.
Don’t do something because it’s "cheap". Say you are offered a "great deal" on advertising space. If you wouldn’t have considered advertising in that market at full price, perhaps the audience isn’t quite right.
Do measure the time, money and other costs of evaluating and executing and opportunity. Measure the result against projections and use this to evaluate future opportunities.
If you need some help finding your rose-colored-opportunity-seeing glasses give me a call. As a Life Coach I help my clients find the opportunity in the apparent threat.
Take me up on my free introductory half-hour coaching session by calling 0416 181 654 or visit www.kaizencoaching.com.au
About the author:
Joanne Mansell is the head coach for Kaizen Coaching, based in Sydney. Primarily in life and business coaching she promotes "Mind, Body and Life Fitness" through telephone and face to face coaching.
(c) Kaizen Coaching 2000-2014. Trademarks Kaizen Coaching, Building an Extraordinary Business and Sportsmind are used with permission of their respective owners.