A few months ago, I spoke with a writer at Inc. about how entrepreneurs can stay open to new opportunities, both in business and in philanthropy. You can read the full piece here. In the article, we discuss how good entrepreneurs look for openings and needs within different markets, and how working harder and longer than your competition is what will ultimately get you across the finish line. The piece more than covers why it is important to look for new opportunities, but it falls short of what a good entrepreneur does when an opportunity arrives. Here’s the big secret; that opportunity is going to change.
I have started and sold several businesses, and all of them had one thing in common. The business I set out to start has never been the business I ultimately wind up with. In all of my years as an entrepreneur, none of my initial visions have made it to reality. Invariable, something changes and the project is forced to adapt. I discuss this phenomenon a bit in my piece on abandoning the plans that do not serve you, but it bears repeating. As an entrepreneur, you can keep your ear to the ground, do the research, wait for the right moment, learn everything you can about a specific market and need, but if you are not ready to throw it all away the moment circumstances change, you will never be successful.
It’s like taking a road trip and encountering construction. You can do as much research as you want to on your route, traffic patterns, and what to expect on the road, but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience an unanticipated road closure. What do you do then? Do you ignore the sign and continue your drive as planned? Or do you adapt? I don’t think anyone out there would keep driving on to a closed road, potentially putting himself or herself in danger, and yet I see business owners and entrepreneurs do it all the time.
A business is only successful when it can provide a product or service that the market is willing to pay money for. If the market is telling you that they aren’t willing to spend money on your product, either because there is no need or because the price is too high, then you need to adapt. Find a new route.
Finding an opportunity is just the first step, staying nimble is what will ultimately lead to success.