Lots of people want to start a business, but don't have a clear idea of what they want to do – or how to assess an opportunity when they see one. If this describes you, here’s a document that can help.
Small Business BC is the British Columbia arm of the CanadaBusiness network of small business advisory organizations across the country. For my money, Small Business BC does the best job of any of them. Its website is bursting with great business-management information – and you don't have to live in B.C. to benefit.
One of the best opportunity guides I've seen is a Small Business BC guide with the underwhelming title, Business Development Concepts. What it really is is 39 pages of entrepreneurial gold.
The document offers 30 or more strategies for starting or expanding a business, by finding new product ideas, identifying new market opportunities or simply taking a different approach to an existing market.
This paper gives you everything you need to start exploring an opportunity. It describes a specific opportunity (say, Capitalizing on a Growth Trend), offers some examples, and then provides three to five bullet points describing “How to Do It.” Then it sparks your thinking by offering three to five key questions you should ask if you decide to investigate any of these niches.
Here’s an example of the format, so you’ll see how easy it is to use.
Cover Market Gaps or Shortages
Market gaps or shortages can occur when a needed product or service is not available or when customer demand is greater than the current available supply. Opportunities then exist for someone to step in and meet that demand.
1. Each summer, the demand for rental houseboats was greater than the supply of boats available in a community resort area. A company began building houseboats to sell and complemented its sales program by renting the unsold units to the local resorts during the peak season, enabling them to place a reduced pricing on these and later sell them as demos (resulting in more sales with no net loss of income).
2. A hotel employee noticed that there was a demand for a mattress repair service and none existed. She quickly signed contracts with several hotels and opened a mattress repair business.
3. A computer store employee who realized that there was no well-developed source of second-hand computers for clients on a budget opened a second-hand computer store.
How To Do It
1. To find situations in which needed products or services are not available or in short supply:
o Ask distributors, agents and retailers what items they have difficulty obtaining.
o Check delivery times and availability for orders of popular products and services.
o Ask companies to identify services that they need but have difficulty obtaining; and listen to people when they complain about products they cannot find or mention services they wish were available.
2. Look for potential supply shortages caused by companies going out of business, changing their production focus or shutting down temporarily. You can do this by:
o Watching out for such news in newspapers, particularly on the business pages.
o Reading trade publications.
o Analyzing lists of companies in receivership or bankruptcy.
What market gaps am I aware of?
What supply shortages am I aware of?
How could I find other market gaps and shortages?
What market gaps and shortages could I meet by providing needed products or services?
Which potential customers have indicated that my perceived gap/shortage is genuine?
If you're looking for new opportunities, this is the real deal: lots of ideas to start you thinking and point you in the right direction. You can read or download Business Development Concepts here.
The unnamed author deserves a medal for initiative, clarity, and just plain “getting it.”