It’s tempting to think that super successful businesses are always the result of a flash of vision and strategic forethought combined with a solid business plan and really good execution. However, a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you that timing and opportunism often played an equal or greater role in their success. Maybe they did have vision, or maybe they just had the inclination to be entrepreneurial. Then some opportunity presented itself and they jumped on it. Often many years later that first opportunity ends up morphing into other related opportunities and there’s your successful business.
If this is how businesses often get started, then why is it that as businesses get more mature they can lose this entrepreneurial spirit and attempt to over plan everything. They sometimes get so focused on specific results for their current business that they can be less open to new opportunities that may arise. Maybe one of your salespeople stumbles across a new use for your core product, or a new way to use your knowledge of ultra-widget production to enter an entirely new market. Yet your pressure on quarterly results makes you not pursue this new opportunity. You can’t pursue all opportunities, but you can’t ignore all opportunities either because that small new opportunity could be your entire business 10 years from now.
It seems that as businesses get larger, they should attempt to remain opportunistic, but do it within a framework that keeps things organized and keeps a focus on performance in their core business. Call it planned opportunism, a way to be continually opportunistic in a disciplined fashion. Here are some thoughts on how:
Idea generation: Take time out of normal execution on your established business and provide a forum for new ideas to be presented. It’s a great way to kick off your yearly planning process. I recommend leaving this loose and having open sessions where anyone in the company can present any idea they want to the leadership team to either improve an existing business or launch a new one. You will be surprised what ideas get presented from people throughout the company. It’s not like you can act on all ideas all at once, but if you do this year after year, you will find that ideas presented a few years back can and will become a reality later. It’s a great way to engage the entire organization in shaping the future of the company and get a lot of great ideas out on the table.
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