Times are tough. Yes, the economy is slowly growing and unemployment is dropping but it is still tough out there. Europe is casting doubt on the economic recovery. We have cut our costs to survive the slow market. Of course. But we want to grow our businesses. That’s what makes it fun and worthwhile. So, where are the opportunities? How do you find opportunities to grow?
Well, take heart, there are plenty of sources of ideas for opportunities.
1. Your existing customers. Often conversations with existing customers generate ideas for new services, products and potential markets. They can even offer hints on new sources of value – the engine for growth of anything. Even better, spend time with a customer to understand how your product or service is used – and where your company can modify the product/service to add considerable value. For example, Panasonic visited customers in China and found that refrigerators needed to be narrower and washing machineshad to be front-loaded in order to fit the space available. Once the products were developed and marketed to meet these criteria, Panasonic’s refrigerator sales increased ten-fold and washing machine market share increased from 3% to 15%.
2. Employees can have excellent ideas for growth opportunities. This includes anyone in the company – it doesn’t matter what position they hold. Talk to front-line employees, production employees, those just starting out – you don’t know where the best idea will come from. Employees care about the company, see what is really happening and can come up with excellent ideas for potential areas of growth. 3M is passionate about fostering employee creativity. An employee created the post-it note, by mistake I might add, and the company has not looked back.
3. The standard PEST and SWOT analysis. Trends can offer both opportunity and risks. The PEST analysis consists of assessing political, economic, social and technological trends – plenty of fodder for excellent ideas. The internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analyses are yet more sources of growth opportunities.
4. Experts in the industry can see beyond the present to the future. They can see what is needed. Another excellent source of opportunities. In fact, Faith Popcorn specializes in predicting future consumer trends. Just be sure you don’t launch a product ahead of its time – they don’t sell well.
5. Novices or babes in the woods. Yes, that’s right. People who know nothing about your industry. They are not blinkered by how your industry works, and can see through much of what is, to what is possible. Novices challenge existing assumptions and have often have experience from other industries – many of these models and ideas may work well in your industry. They can even transform it. Think of how Starbucks revolutionized their industry from an orange coffee shop designed to get customers to leave in order to sell more cheap coffee to new arrivals – to one that is comfortable, with good couches, wireless, music, high quality coffee, high prices to match and everything for sale. Definitely a profitable model.
So, here are some sources of opportunities. There are more, and I would be interested to hear which ones have been most effective for you.
Partners Creating Wealth are business strategy, market research and financing experts with national and international capabilities. We offer business expertise worldwide to help organizations grow & disadvantaged regions thrive. Email: Tove@PartnersCreatingWealth.com
Photo credit: Adriano Aurelio Araujo