How to spot new opportunities

Be open to discovering the next big thing for your business, and learn to look in the right places.

Adding something new to your existing product or service offering can significantly increase your business revenue. However, it’s not always easy for a busy entrepreneur to spot a genuine opportunity. So you need to be open to discovering the next big thing for your business, and learn to look in the right places.

You already know how innovation drives business.

New ideas can come from the inside or outside of a business. Innovation can come along in the form of an exciting new product that perfectly complements your existing product line. It can take the form of a service provider who adds incredible value to your offering. Or, a market scan, business conversation or magazine article might reveal a brilliant idea.

The first step toward finding new opportunities for your business is being open to receiving them. If you resist change, you’ll quickly dismiss any opportunity that comes your way. Being open to new ideas is paramount – otherwise it could just pass you by.

With your mind, eyes, ears and heart open, you can begin to survey these promising sources of innovation and ideas:

1. Attend industry events & conferences

There’s probably no greater way to find opportunities than an industry event.

They are designed to help participants generate new ideas. The purpose of industry events is to give participants useful insights into their industry that they might not otherwise obtain. Event organizers do that by putting several hundred people in a conference space where they can soak up information from seminar speakers, talk with their peers, sample new products and hear about industry trends.

2. Read business publications & websites

The more you read, the more opportunities you’ll discover. Publishers do a wonderful job at serving up ideas for innovation. Go online to read or pick up a magazine copy of insightful publications such as Inc., Entrepreneur, Canadian Business, Forbes, Fast Company or WIRED for a healthy dose of inspiration.

3. Review academic research

Universities and colleges perform some cutting-edge research projects, and most publish their findings for public consumption. For example, University of Manchester scientists Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn invented the first working computer in 1948.

Find out what you can about institutions doing research related to your industry.

4. Spy on competitors

While keeping current on your direct competition is always good business practice, try digging deeper into their affairs to see what they’re up to next.

Do things like subscribe to their newsletter, read their promotional literature, and even become a customer. Go online to read their annual reports, monitor key moves in human resources, and pay attention to strategic alliances.

For some unique insights, learn what you can about suppliers to your competitors, as well. For example, some savvy stock market investors make their money by investing in suppliers about to do more business with Google.

5. Travel more

It’s difficult to be innovative when we do the same thing every day.

In addition to rejuvenating a weary entrepreneur, traveling is one of the best ways to discover a new product, service or method that you can apply to your own operation. Book some time away from your business in order to discover some new ideas.

Entrepreneurs should always be looking for new opportunities. But it takes time – it’s difficult to innovate on a schedule. Whether the innovation comes to you within weeks, months or even years, be sure to start now. Otherwise, you might just miss the next big thing.

Next steps