The other week, our youngest son (of 15 years), Austin, got the opportunity to sign to a live audience at the Los Angeles Convention Center in front of foreign dignitaries. The song was Land of Dreams written by Rosemary Cash (Johnny’s daughter) for the Discover America project. Austin, with a handful of Mira Costa High School chorus students sang to a recording of the song. Their school received a nice donation.
Of the four elements, (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the well known strategy SWOT analysis, opportunities seem to be the hardest to define. Most companies can tell you their strengths. That’s not hard, if you just look at your successes. Weaknesses can be illuminated if you are honest with yourself. And threats surface from business paranoia. All you have to do is list the things that keep you up at night.
Opportunities are different from the other three. There are good opportunities and bad opportunities. Some opportunities are scams, others are half-baked dreams. I have prepared a number of business plans and strategic plans that flushed out half-baked ideas. I remember these group of musicians that wanted to start a music company and sign artists to perform the songs written by one of the principles. I replied, “What happens if he dies? Your whole business model is based on him living and writing.”
They didn’t hire me,(In face, I think the inspiring songwriter showed me to the door.)
So, where can you find opportunities?
Bill Birnbaum in his book, Strategic Thinking, A Four Piece Puzzle, lists some advice on finding opportunities.
- Macro-environment factors: First look to the macro-environment. This is the big, broad place that is not specific to your company, or even your industry. These issues include the economic conditions, government regulations, consumer attitudes, and demographic data. In other words, SPEELT (Societal, political, economic, environmental, legal, and technology.) An example would be Cique du soleil considering the movies, the opera, or Chinese acrobats when making their decision the change the nature of the circus. These segments are outside their industry, but these segments lack aspects of entertainment that the cirque provides. So, the cirque saw an opportunity of competing against these other markets for the same audience.
- Micro-environment factors: The micro-environment includes your customers, suppliers, etc. interact. It is the world you customers belong. A competitors weakness translates into an opportunity. This is not a strategy. An opportunity is a favorable external circumstance that you may pursue, where a strategy is not external and is part of your organization’s big picture quest.
Check out these factors when confronted with opportunities. Dreams are just dreams. Good opportunities are well-thought out choices that may transform your business.