Entrepreneurs are always striving to get ahead of the latest and greatest business opportunities. They may get their insights from books, shop talk, or Web-based business resources, but the best tips usually come from experienced entrepreneurs who have already been there and done that.
At a recent SME conference put on by Financial Executives International, I asked a roundtable of veteran business leaders to identify today’s biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs that are hoping to expand their current businesses or start new ones.
Here’s a summary of the exciting opportunities each entrepreneur cited:
Julia N. Dumanian is former president and CEO of Cambridge Memorial Hospital. She was named Canada’s Hospital Leader of the Year in 2007 for her passionate and transformational leadership.
“I think human capital is where it’s at,” said Dumanian. She believes Canada’s secret weapon is the “tremendous young people with great skills” graduating from our colleges and universities. She encourages entrepreneurs to tap their brainpower by setting up internships to get these graduates into your business “and really exploit some of these brilliant minds, especially on the technology side.” Given the tough time many grads have had finding good jobs, she notes, “We can help them help us grow our businesses.”
Murray G. K. Davidson is chair of RHI Investments LLC, with private-equity investments in real estate, utilities and pipeline consulting, and advanced technology. He is a senior partner of three specialty consultancies, focusing on financial services, utilities, and health care.
Davidson sees opportunities in all aspects of health care in Canada, the U.S., and around the world. Given the accelerating changes in technology and demographics, he says, you can't go wrong exploring solutions in “anything related to your health” such as health technologies, health processes, and personal monitoring and management of individual health. He is also bullish on new medical devices, particularly for in-home use, and new approaches for taming out-of-control health-information systems. “Cost improvement, performance improvement, waiting list reduction, capital management – you name it,” he says.
Davidson believes in consumer products, too, especially those targeted to Asia and Latin America. He’s also keen on specialty products aimed at young people, especially personal technologies. He said he’s working with a company on a new device that Apple is considering adding to its “i” family of products (iPad, iPod, etc.). He says it’s specifically aimed at consumers 25 and under.
Tom Enright, president and CEO of the Canadian Investor Relations Institute, is former CEO of CNW Group Ltd. His expertise lies in strategic planning, branding, sales and marketing.
To find opportunities, Enright advises, “look at the places where there are societal pain points”. He cites the debate that preceded the mandatory introduction of automobile seatbelts. “There was a lot of turmoil before we finally got there, then everyone had them.” Now, he notes, “there’s a huge societal issue about whether we can afford the cost of ‘green’ energy, so there’s got to be opportunities there.”
Enright is also high on opportunities with information technology, but especially those related to social media. “No one knows how exactly to use it, so there are great opportunities there.”
Finally, he predicts the next “big” commodity opportunity will be an area Canadians know well: fresh water.
Gerald A. Lokash is an experienced entrepreneur, consultant, and senior insolvency practitioner. He also owns several commercial real-estate companies.
Lokash believes data is the key to future business opportunities. Today’s IT systems allow business owners to measure every aspect of their business, and compare their efficiency to other organizations. “It’s inconceivable how much data has been accumulated about just about everything,” he says. “I think opportunity resides in how you use the data that's available to you in your company and your industry.”
He says companies such as communications giant BCE have expanded exponentially by exhaustively analyzing their own operational data. Lokash believes other companies can grow by understanding every inch of their business and how to achieve more from each asset. “There’s huge opportunity in accessing data in a way that can help you understand and steer your businesses forward.”
The conference buzzed with the optimism entrepreneurs always feel when they think about unmet market needs. How can your business take advantage of these golden opportunities?
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