Many successful businesses were started by entrepreneurs with an ability to see a trend before everyone else. They were able to take their insight and capitalise on it in a new and creative way.
Businesses from Uber and Lyft to Airbnb and HomeAway are just some of the most recent examples of entrepreneurs benefiting from emerging trends. But just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it is easy to see trends first and find ways to capitalise on them.
Smart entrepreneurs are always looking for an edge. They want to know how they can identify trends and how they can use that skill to build and grow a business. Fortunately, there are steps you can take develop this skill yourself.
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Here are five keys to spotting trends and capitalising on them before your competition does.
1. Anticipate change
I frequently remind coaching clients that the only constant is change. Believe it. Assume that change is coming and look for it.
Change can be either social – as in the rise of socially responsible business – or technological, as exemplified by the growth of mobile commerce. Sometimes change can be both. Social media is a great example of that.
Don’t forget the cyclical, up-and-down, back-and-forth nature of business while you are looking.
Change doesn’t have to be permanent to provide a viable opportunity for business creation and growth.
When the real estate crisis hit in 2008, construction activity shrank, and many people were forced to make do with what they had. But trend-spotting entrepreneurs were able to adjust their plans depending on the market.
For example, savvy interior designers marketed their services to those who wanted something new but couldn’t find or afford a new home.
2. See it coming
The basic tools of the trend tracker are seeing, hearing, smell, taste and touch. In other words, every sense that can be used to get information about the world should be employed in looking for upcoming changes.
Start by reading and watching everything you can. That should include general interest news outlets, trade publications, blogs, government reports and casual conversations overheard in elevators. Be especially alert for problems people are talking about.
Consider using trend-tracking tools like Google Trends, Topsy and Trendhunter to help you zero-in on trends that are worth investigating further. You won’t be the only entrepreneur looking for business ideas on these platforms, but you can use them to dig deeper to validate hunches.
3. Distinguish between short-lived fads and long-term trends
Strive to identify big changes that create lasting problems that lots of customers will be happy to pay to solve.
The idea is to wind up with a business model in which revenues are much larger than costs for a long period, not one that limps by on slender profit margins before competitors take even that away.
To filter out fads, talk to the potential buyers of the solution to the problem. The more frustrated they are, the more likely they are to pay for a solution.
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In extreme cases, potential customers may be willing to fund the development of solutions. Also talk to experts. While they may not be able to write checks, they can provide insights and point to possible solutions that customers could not even imagine.
4. Make sure your solutions are realistic
An online retailer that aims to beat Amazon at its own game is unlikely to show up on top of any fast-growing startup lists very soon.
Make sure the solution you envision is one you can realistically provide with features and costs that will compare favourably to established alternatives.
Again, it’s vital to talk to potential customers. Don’t just brainstorm in-house. What you can do conveniently and inexpensively may be of little value to customers. The sweet spot for a trend-exploiting startup is at the intersection of business capability and customer need.
5. Create a competitive advantage
To get the biggest benefit, be the first mover. It is rare for any single entrepreneur to be the only one who sees an opportunity. Most will hesitate and not move at all. Many others will not move swiftly enough.
Lasting competitive advantage usually goes to the first entrant to stake a market out and capture customer loyalty. Those who come later usually have to settle for slimmer profits and more competition.
Being first is not enough, of course. Business history is littered with well-financed startups directed by well-regarded leaders who committed too much, too early and in the wrong place. So test before committing. Again, look for revenues that overwhelm costs and customers who are overjoyed.
For every trend that supports a future startup star, any number go ignored, leaving potential customers searching for solutions and opportunities for established companies to fill their needs. But it only takes timely identification of one trend to get a startup in flight, and these techniques can point you to the one you need.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How You Can Over-Deliver To Gain The Advantage
Go over and above for the people you serve, and you will enjoy the benefits of an abundant relationship.
Wise, established entrepreneurs know that over-delivering value — which simply means going above and beyond for the people we serve to deliver more satisfaction for our service and thus exceed expectations — is crucial to a business’s survival, growth and future. It represents the core of a company’s foundation. And without a solid foundation, a business is always vulnerable to a person or company that does over-deliver.
To ensure you don’t ever forget the importance of over-delivering value, here are three ways it will give you and your company a distinct competitive advantage:
1. Creates abundance
Success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. When you over-deliver value, people may be sceptical at first, thinking that you are expecting something in return, but when you are consistent and genuine with your intentions, they begin to trust and appreciate that you are just thinking of them.
You never know the value of the value you are delivering. But I’ve learnt that if you are consistently delivering greater value to people, your value becomes more and more aligned with the immediate needs of the people and companies you are serving — and abundance in the relationship is created. This is what over-delivering value is all about.
2. Earns respect
Entrepreneurs who take the time to over-deliver value are the ones who earn respect. Typically early-stage entrepreneurs tend to find ways to be the recipient of someone else’s value in a search for momentum.
You never know which transactional seed is going to grow, but when adding value to others, this type of seed is never forgotten.
For example, every quarter, I deliver a white paper to clients with the intention to challenge their thinking. My goal is for them to know that regardless of whether I am conducting business with them or not, I am thinking of them and thus strengthening our long-term relationship. And since my white papers focus on predicting future leadership trends and business strategies, when a related topic arises in one of their strategy meetings, they don’t hesitate to call me to discuss an opportunity for us to engage.
3. Enables distinction
Entrepreneurs who add value to others create and sustain a distinction in the minds and hearts of those they are serving. After all, most people are simply doing what they’re told to do inside the box they are given. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.
We are the originators, the innovators and the opportunity seekers. We live our lives constantly in search of ways to add value to make things better. We disrupt the status quo. We are not in the business of fixing the old ways of doing things. We create new ways of doing things. If entrepreneurs are technically the experts at adding value through our products, services and brands, why can’t we add value through the people we depend upon most for our success?
Over-delivering value is the key not only to being a successful entrepreneur but also to the entrepreneurial mindset we must continually cultivate in ourselves and others. No one is successful alone. We must see the value in over-delivering value by being other-directed and connecting dots of opportunity with focus and purpose to become smarter and wiser, while making ourselves invaluable to the people and businesses we serve.
How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos
One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.
Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.
Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.
Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.
Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.
It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.
The rise of streaming
Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.
By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.
In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.
This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?
“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.
In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.
Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”
SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth
Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.
In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.
Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.
As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.
Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?
If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.
Lead the pack
A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.
As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.
Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.
Steady the ship
An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.
- Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
- Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
- People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.
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