Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Finding a Business Opportunity

Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Finding a Business Opportunity

Article excerpt

In this second article in the series on entrepreneurship, we look at the process of coming up with a good business idea.

If you feel you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, your next step is to identify opportunities and match them with innovative solutions. Perhaps the most difficult thing to learn is how to become sensitive to opportunities.

The first thing to recognize is that identifying opportunities takes a commitment to practice in order to gain any measurable proficiency. You should be prepared to practice opportunity identification regularly if you want to master the ability.

Second, this is an activity we often have not been trained for anywhere in our educational experience. In fact, our education has probably contributed to our inability to recognize opportunities.

In the spring of 1990, I taught entrepreneurship to high school teachers at the University of Toronto. That summer, as part of a conference sponsored by the Innovation Centre in Waterloo, I presented workshops in North Bay and Toronto to other groups of high school teachers. A topic of prime consideration at each of these "train the trainers" sessions was understanding the nature and process of opportunity identification and how to teach it to others.

This course is recognized to be very different from the usual business course given in Ontario's schools. A key aspect is the emphasis given to identifying opportunities and developing creative solutions. This is clearly a first and I relate the situation to provide some background and credibility to the approach presented in this article.

How do you start? Start by becoming sensitive to your environment! Typically, the entrepreneur can look at situations where most of us see nothing but chaos and identify an opportunity. This is a unique ability that is cultivated over time through practice. The question for you, therefore, becomes twofold: How can I become sensitive to my environment? How can I discern opportunities?

To develop an appreciation of the entrepreneur's ability to identify opportunities, I asked workshop participants to consider our location as their entrepreneurial environment. Their task was, in about 20 minutes, to identify 15 or 20 problems or shortcomings with their immediate environment.

It is often not difficult for anyone to perform such an exercise and come up with a lengthy list of issues. The effort must be a conscious one, however, as most of us are so familiar with our everyday environment that we become oblivious to it. …

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