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Guide To Identifying Opportunities

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Opportunities are needs, wants, problems, and challenges that point to a market—to customers who would buy the innovative solutions that you create to meet the needs, satisfy the wants, solve the problems, or meet the challenges.

To be successful, you have to identify an entrepreneurial opportunity. How do entrepreneurs seek out, find, and assess potential opportunities? Here are some suggestions to help you learn to identify opportunities.

An Entrepreneurial Safari—On the Hunt for Opportunity

  1. Recognize patterns as they are forming. The entrepreneur has an advantage if trends, patterns, and changes are detected before others have noticed them—perhaps even before they have happened. Think of any special insights you may have because of your age, your taste in fashion, food or entertainment, or because of special knowledge you may have acquired as a result of jobs you've had or hobbies you've enjoyed.
  2. Look at the small things. Many of the best opportunities lie in what has been overlooked. Perhaps a service could be improved by using a different type of venue, such as the Internet. Or a product that is used for one purpose could perhaps be changed slightly and used for another. An example would be socks that can be made into toys for infants.
  3. Don't overlook the obvious. There is a saying that "only a foolish mouse would hide in a cat's ear, but it is the foolish cat that fails to look there."
  4. Watch for good ideas that are poorly executed. Some people find the opportunities but just don't know how to take advantage of them. Because of your special experience and knowledge, you may be able to improve on a failed idea.
  5. Combine two or more things/thoughts together. Somebody came up with the idea for combining a bar and a Laundromat. Someone else thought of combining a coffee shop and bookstore. Opportunities can often arise when two things are brought together for examination and thought.
  6. Look for new, generally unknown information. The best information is what is new and/or generally unknown. You might find widely scattered information on the Internet, for example, and by assembling it in one place provide it to others for a fee.
  7. Talk with people. What better way is there to identify needs, wants, and problems than by talking to people and finding out what they have to say? Don't overlook talking with your own family and friends about their problems, needs, or challenges.
  8. Read journals, trade magazines, and online publications to keep on top of things and to gather new information that may give rise to an opportunity or idea.
  9. Look for what has worked elsewhere. Perhaps you've travelled to a foreign country and seen a product or service that is not being offered where you live. You could research its application in your country and perhaps introduce it as something "new."
  10. Look for new ways to meet old needs and wants. The Internet provides new ways for the elderly to stay in touch with their families, for example. You might be able to help this group to get online.
  11. Look for ways to overcome barriers that blocked a good idea in the past. People tend to resist change, and some other entrepreneur may have been unable to overcome the resistance to a good idea. Often barriers disappear over time. Perhaps a service business failed because of zoning laws, which may have since changed.
  12. Look for "left-behind" markets—leaded gas cars, older model computers, 8-track tape players, Volkswagen beetles. As long as people continue to use certain things, they continue to have needs.
  13. Look for good ideas that can be improved.
  14. Look at why people buy something rather than what they buy. Find out what motivates people—what prompts them to buy something. Opportunities are often disguised as underlying needs and wants.
  15. Look for new uses for old products—old tires, end pieces of lumber, record players, records.
  16. Look for what's not working. If you can make it work, you may have found an opportunity.
  17. "Take a complainer to lunch." Look for unhappy, dissatisfied people. They may point out needs and wants that you could fill.
  18. Look for happy, contented people. Here you will find insight into what has worked and what might work better.
  19. Stay alert. Pay attention to people and the world around you and you will notice opportunities everywhere.