Few aspects of entrepreneurship evoke as much excitement as identifying business opportunities that others have seemingly overlooked (or missed entirely). The experience feels a bit like finding an item in one of those kids’ “hidden object” pictures: Suddenly, you see something that wasn’t apparent just moments before, and you’re filled with a burst of mental energy.
In the corporate world (and during COVID-19), finding new business opportunities isn’t just emotionally thrilling. Being first to market could make or break a company, especially one hit hard by lockdowns and changing consumer behaviors. But entrepreneurs need to be cautious; not every revolutionary concept or unique twist on a current product is worth pursuing. Knowing how to figure out the difference — and fast — is a talent worth honing to avoid spinning wheels, wasting resources, and falling behind.
So how can you increase your acumen for evaluating new business opportunities? Follow these key principles to help determine whether a concept will be worth your emotional and literal time to drive toward market success:
1. Measure your brainchild against your passions. Want to know how to evaluate a business opportunity from the get-go? Listen to your heart and soul. For example, will diving into what seems like a terrific idea help you accomplish your goals? Do you feel like it’ll allow you to act with good intentions?
If the opportunity grabs you at a personal level, you’ll be more inclined to stick with it. Remember: Getting anything to market requires tremendous patience. If you’re indifferent about an idea, you might let it fall by the wayside before it gets off the ground.
2. Quiet your mind and open your ears. Part of the process of identifying a business opportunity involves listening without judgment. I often joke that I’ve gotten old enough to listen. This is something that tempers my motivations to go full steam ahead, which might not be the wisest move.
Therefore, hear out everyone from your current and potential customers to stakeholders (such as employees and investors). Figure out what worries them. Do they have any specific objections to your current offerings? Questions? Absorb what you learn, and evaluate your findings objectively. You’ll no doubt start finding business opportunities in their feedback that you might not have considered otherwise.
3. Put on your research hat. Once you have some business opportunities in mind and have spoken to customers and colleagues, you need to see if the market will bear your ideas. A concept could completely enthrall you. But if you’re the only buyer, it’s bound to flop. Consequently, you’ll want to conduct tests to not just validate your hunches, but also to seek areas of improvement in your original thought process.
Bring together beta groups, roll out a prototype, or survey people representing your target audience. The more research you undergo upfront, the more competent you’ll feel about identifying successful business opportunities and moving them forward.
4. Go back to a tried-and-true analysis. If you’ve been around the entrepreneurial block a time or two, you’ve heard of the classic four-quadrant strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (or SWOT) analysis. It’s stuck around for generations because it’s simple to pull together and gives you an instant visual of whether an idea’s feasible.
After listening and researching, you should have enough information for a robust SWOT analysis jam-packed with valuable hard data and anecdotal evidence. Even if you’re convinced that you’ve uncovered a terrific business idea, the SWOT analysis won’t lie. Don’t be dismayed if you get this far in the process only to have to readjust. Your original business opportunity might not be the right one, but it could lead to a better solution.
5. Lean on your mentor. Understanding how to identify a good business idea is less arduous when you have a trusted mentor to text, call, and Zoom. Mentors will share their negative and positive experiences, helping you figure out the best way to evaluate business opportunities.
When you reach hurdles, set up a meeting with your mentor. Talk things over. Harness the power of someone else’s perspective. Having unbiased advice can shed light on perplexing and vexing problems.
Knowing how to find business opportunities and harness them for your company’s success isn’t necessarily an innate trait among entrepreneurs. Rather, it’s a skill best mastered through diligence. Be patient, but be bold: Opportunities are hidden all around you in plain view. They’re just waiting for you to adjust your eyes and see the world through a different lens.