We live in a time of unlimited opportunities for entrepreneurs. Around every corner and behind every call, there are new opportunities to explore. So how do you pick the best opportunities for your business? Can you become good at seizing opportunities? I’ve been involved in Joint Ventures (JVs) and strategic alliances since the late 1980’s, when we helped bring this new company, Apple Computer, to the Midwest with my company, Northeast Consumer Technologies.
Many things have changed over the years when it comes to putting together JVs and strategic alliances. Today, deal making is both an art and a science. I was blessed to have a CEO who thought it was critical for his general managers to understand what we were responsible for when developing strategic alliances with emerging technology partners. He wanted all of us to better understand how to evaluate what we needed to do to build our sales by identifying and seizing opportunities for our business. I’ve used his deal making strategies with many of the world’s most successful brands to help them seize new opportunities and market share in their markets. So what are the keys to seizing opportunities?
The first key to seizing opportunities is that the partnering organizations must have similar values. In his role as CEO, my boss had seen many great opportunities pass him by because the partnering organization did not have similar values. For example, we had a no lemon policy for any product you bought from us. This meant that our partners had to feel strongly about satisfying their customers, as well. Since we sold many new products, we expected the bumps that came with selling early VCRs, computers, big screen TVs, and microwaves. These products changed the way people lived their lives. Before the age of intelligent interfaces, programming a VCR took a virtual PhD. Our partners needed to be willing to work with us on a wide range of operator malfunctions if we hoped to keep satisfying our long term clients.
The second key to seizing opportunities is your partner must be willing to help educate your sales team on the product or service. Many great opportunities are missed because sales people are risk averse in dealing with their best clients and customers. Since many worked on a straight commission basis, they did not sell new products that might require additional work to sell their clients. It’s funny, when I worked on Enterprise software projects I saw the same issue. Sales people did not want to share new ideas with their clients for fear the client might buy it before the product is fully vetted. Good partners understand they can create support systems to help sales professionals feel comfortable discussing these new ideas with their clients.
The third key to seizing opportunities is the sales people can’t see the value to early adopters. Most new opportunities fail to succeed because the people selling them struggle to connect the dots required for early adopters to buy the product or service. Most early adopters buy for different reasons than your most conservative long term clients. They are looking for an edge in their markets. I think of Progressive Insurance being a great example of this fact. When I was younger I worked with many financial service businesses. All of them used large computers and batch processing to handle their technology needs. Progressive Insurance saw an opportunity to change the way people did business in their industry by changing the way business was done.
They were looking for increased profits and speed by deploying technology differently and then changing the way they worked with their agents and claims people. They were always tinkering with technology to get an edge. Even today, you can see this as part of their corporate DNA as they continue to change the game in their industry. To seize the opportunities for early growth you have to have the right people working together. They have to be able to co- create a vision of the future with their clients.
Finally, the last key to seizing opportunities is you must know yourself and your team. Many of my clients and employers have hired me to shake things up in the organization. If you hope to seize new opportunities you must tie your business systems and processes to be able to seize new opportunities. This includes your compensation programs. If you want people to be risk takers, you must reward risk. Many great opportunities are missed because the organization lacks a clear vision and strategy for seizing new opportunities.
Next Monday, I’ll share a process to help you better understand if you should even attempt taking on certain risks for your business. Over 75% of CEOs are unsatisfied with their current partnerships. Next week, I’ll give the questions you must ask if you hope to develop successful partnerships.