A Framework For Creating Opportunities
The key to finding opportunities is not waiting for them to arrive; it's proactively creating spaces for opportunities to arise and being in a position to take action on them when the right one does.
I've spent a considerable amount of time learning about the variables that allow a person to find and execute on an idea to make it a success. By observing those who have become successful, and through my own experiences, I've narrowed down the factors that enable someone to move quickly on an idea to four: confidence, capabilities, connections and capital.
These 4 C's for Opportunity Creation can be applied on a micro level to identify personal gaps and to set yourself up to be able to move quickly on new opportunities. They can also be used at a macro level, to assess the development opportunities within regions, communities and countries to support the success of small-medium businesses and startups.
The story behind an opportunity
On many accounts, in conversations relating to founders of successful companies, I have heard people say "I wish I had that idea". It implies that the idea is the pivotal point of success for the business owner. But the essential story of an entrepreneur starts well before 'the idea' and goes well beyond this moment too.
A history of development occurs before an entrepreneurs recognition as a leader, which set them up to be able to step into the opportunity presented.
It's less a matter of luck and more a matter of being in a position to identify and say yes to an opportunity when it showed up and being able to do a good enough job of executing.
The process before the arrival of an opportunity is what we'll call Opportunity Creation. This article describes the factors that drive Opportunity Creation. I hope this framework gives you a structure to address the activities you are participating in, with the long term objective of accessing better and better opportunities. It is less about what you have now, and more about what you can do to develop yourself in the areas presented below.
The "4 C's" of Opportunity Creation
Capability means having the skills and experience to be able to assess an opportunity, and it's risks, to decide if it's worthwhile. And if it is, being able to take effective action.
Capability development takes time and dedication to a field. The more time you spend learning and gaining experience in a particular area, especially if it's an area you have a natural curiosity towards, the more likely you are to find opportunities. Time in the game not only improves your ability to take action on a break; it will also help to get more breaks.
For example, many successful entrepreneurs have failed ventures, or small-time businesses, before landing on the one that makes them wildly successful. The capabilities that they developed from their experience as entrepreneurs, successful or not, set them up to succeed with the right opportunity.
For this reason, at Mum's Garage, we encourage people to give their ideas a go, even if they might not work out. The learning and development that comes from the experience trying to start a business are transferable to the next better idea.
People have varying degrees of "natural" confidence, which impacts how they assert themselves. When a person feels confident, they will be more likely to take risks. Acting on new opportunities requires taking a risk.
People gain confidence in areas through learning and experience, which makes them more assertive in that role or field. Other factors that build confidence include mentors, a more extensive support network (community), environment and financial security. When people feel safe, they feel more confident.
Here are some examples of what confidence looks like in the earliest stages of entrepreneurship:
- believing in yourself enough to speak up, to ask questions and take action when you see a possibility
- When you have an idea, it's being able to reach out to the first, second, third person who can give you some insights or advice and possibly turn it from an inkling into a project worth spending time on.
- It's sharing a post on facebook about the thing you have just made to see if anyone wants to buy it off you
- It's creating the product and putting it into the world for feedback
If you're able to act on opportunities with these types of behaviour regularly, you will eventually land on something successful.
Capabilities build confidence, which is why I believe capability development comes first.
Relationships with people who give valuable feedback, facilitate introduction and/or are willing to collaborate with you are a significant contributing factor to Opportunity Creation.
Connections such as those that allow you to reach the right person, to validate the idea, develop a valuable product, sell the product, find the right people to be a part of what you are creating. Business is driven by people. The more relevant people you develop relationships with, the more opportunities you will be exposed to and the faster you will be able to turn an idea into a reality.
Capital = resource. You need a lot of resources to start a company. Without capital (money) you are reliant solely on the efforts that you and anyone else you rope into work for free, or for equity. With capital, you can pay the right people to produce high-quality work. You can leverage your capabilities by spending time on what you are good at and paying people to do what you do not have time to do well.
Access to capital enables an individual to take risks. If a person has access to enough money to cover necessary living expenses, without having to worry, they will be more inclined to say yes to an opportunity that does not guarantee an immediate financial return.
Since the beginning of Mum's Garage, my goal has been to make it easier to bring great ideas to life. The foundation of this is getting to a position where I can move on opportunities quickly and easily, and help others to do the same.
I spent a significant amount of time earlier in my career thinking about ideas, without a lot of action. At this time, I was working as an employee in the finance industry. I knew very little about the skills and processes needed to start a business, I didn't have connections to other people who were starting businesses, and I didn't have the confidence to reach out to the right people. So for years, I thought and talked about ideas without moving on them.
After four and half years of learning about startup business, full time and fully committed, building connections and confidence, I am in a position where I get exposed to more opportunities than I could have imagined. Each day I get to work on these opportunities, and they keep getting better. I have seen this happen to the other people I have worked with along the way.
I am grateful for the introduction I got into entrepreneurship and for the people and ideas I am fortunate to surround myself with. I believe the foundations for helping other people to do the same is by building up their capabilities, connections and confidence in the areas of startup business. And, as a result, produce the capital for even bigger and better opportunities. The more work we can do to help people who have not had access to development opportunities in these areas, the more prosperous, sustainable outcomes we will start to see for a more diverse range of people.