Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

Selecting a Venture

Craft an entry strategy. What type of business could best seize the chosen opportunity?

The basic rule is simple: “Find a market need and fill it!” The process of finding the need, and the method chosen to fill it are where the difficulties arise.

Based on our opportunity scan, does the market need a product or service that is not currently being provided? Is there a needed product or service currently being provided in a less than satisfactory way? Is some particular market being underserved due to capacity shortages or location gaps? Can we serve any of these needs with some competitive advantage?

Remember that a business idea is not a business opportunity until it is evaluated objectively and judged to be feasible. You may wish to choose two to five of the ideas that seem most promising for more detailed study. Trying to consider too many would spread your time, energy and focus too thin. At the same time, if you focus too early on only one business idea, you are more likely to become “attached” to it, and could lose your objectivity.

Testing the feasibility of your top business ideas involves time and effort to collect key information. A first pass might consist of consulting recent journal articles that evaluate the market of interest; most libraries have computer-based indexes of periodical articles, such as InfoTrac. Other useful library resources include industry trade books, directories, and other sources of industry statistics.

Data collected from industry sources and journal articles is often referred to as secondary data, in that it was collected for purposes not directly related to our specific venture. Sometimes this can be sufficient, though we may find the need to fill the gaps with primary data. Collection of primary data can be very expensive. It generally consists of conducting market surveys, in person or by telephone, of a statistically significant random sample of our prospective clientele.

Craft an entry strategy. What type of business could best seize the chosen opportunity? Would taking in partners with complementary skills enhance my chances for success? What would be the optimum location? Whom would we serve, and how? Would my chances be improved by buying a franchise or an existing business, as opposed to starting a venture “from scratch?”

A small business is the usual product of entrepreneurship. Can a person start a large business? Only 4% of businesses employ over 20 people at start-up. What kinds of businesses are the larger start-ups likely to be? My sense is that most would be food service businesses, and many of those would be franchises.

Over half of business start-ups consist of 1 or 2 employees. What kinds of businesses can you enter with only 1 or 2 employees? Most would probably be considered professional practices (medical, law, accounting) rather than commercial businesses.

Small businesses are characterized by independent management, closely-held ownership, a primarily local area of operations, and a scale that is small in comparison with competitors. Many are small by design, or are “lifestyle” businesses, where the primary objective is employment for the principals.

Many are intended to be more “entrepreneurial ventures,” with the intention of generating substantial growth in scale of operations and profitability. Successful entrepreneurs craft such an idea into a business concept that, hopefully, fills a void in the marketplace. You should enjoy your concept and be excited enough to relay your feelings to your market.

Your concept does not need to be a major breakthrough. It could simply be an improvement to an existing product or service. The improvement could be as simple as better service and/or quality than is currently available, a faster or otherwise better method of delivery, or a technological improvement.

Solicit input from friends and other consumers of the product as currently offered. Ask questions like: Is there a need? Would YOU buy it? What price would you expect to pay for it? Is there a better way to provide it?

Check out how the competition is providing the product to the market. Determine what makes your concept different from the competition. Why would the market be better off doing business with you? What can you give the market to improve their experience with the product? Does your product or service exceed the expectations of the market?

Define the needs of your market by listening to the customers and understanding how your product might fill that need. Is there something more you could do, to make it more attractive to your market? Is your product a solution to a problem in your market? How will you handle customer service complaints? What are your guarantees to your customers?

Statistics show that 80% of company sales come from repeat orders and referrals from satisfied customers. Exceed your customers’ expectations and they will be back, and they will refer you to others.

Refining and improving your concept is an ongoing process. Maintain a high profile in your community to develop relationships that help promote the product and serve as a referral and constructive feedback network. This involvement will only produce these benefits, however, if you are sincere in your willingness to work hard for the community you live in. If you don’t the available time to offer your community, perhaps you could give your product as a gift to local charities or sponsor a local event where your community would benefit.

John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has almost 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available on Amazon.

Innovation

Abstract: Innovation, in a business context, is generally thought of as the product or application of creativity. Peter F. Drucker suggests that innovation “is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship”.

Mr. Drucker further suggests that there are seven sources of innovative opportunity. Four of these relate to a specific industry or service sector: the unexpected; the incongruous; process needs; and structural change. The other three relate to the human and economic environment: demographics; changes in perception, mood, and meaning; and new knowledge.

Let us observe some of these factors at work in a coffee shop venture. The unexpected factor in the recent success of gourmet coffee shops is the willingness of the consumer to spend two or three times the cost of a generic cup of coffee for exotic, flavored or brand-name coffee. An incongruity is the popularity of fat-free desserts (“healthy” indulgence) to go with that coffee. The structural change in the industry is the emergence of franchises.

Environmental changes have also contributed to this phenomenon. As the “baby-boomer” generation has aged, the preferred place to meet has moved from the bar to the health club to the coffee shop.

Let us consider information about some current trends to see if we can relate them to potential opportunities in the context of Professor Drucker’s categories. For each, see if you can possibly find a niche on which to build a business:

  • The unexpected The International Association for Financial Planning is observing a rapid (to the point of unexpected) increase in calls requesting referrals for financial planners. A spokesperson for the IAFP says, “People are realizing that financial planning is not just for retirement or saving for a child’s college education; it’s for all stages of a person’s life”.
  • The incongruous Many Americans are feeling pressed for time, incongruously wishing to lead simpler, easier lives without giving up those activities that take the most time and effort. The opportunity lies in offering personal time-saving products and services that relieve these people of tasks that they find less than fulfilling, not worth the time, or unpleasant.
  • Process needs Individuals and businesses are spending unprecedented sums of money to acquire the education, training and skills necessary to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace, creating opportunities in consulting and training.
  • Structural change The health-care industry will flourish because of an aging population, myriad technological advances and people’s expectations of readily available medical care. One of the industry’s fastest growing segments is home-based health care, which is well-suited for entrepreneurs because of its ease of entry.
  • Demographics The aging population referred to possesses a combination of leisure time and discretionary funds that makes them a great market for new ventures in services relating to their comfort and recreational needs.
  • Changes in perception, mood and meaning The amount of money that citizens and businesses spend on security products and services is growing rapidly; the preferred method for many forms of purchase is increasingly becoming the Internet.
  • New knowledge In 1996, for the first time, computer sales outnumbered television sales in the United States.
  • Do any of these sources of innovative opportunity suggest an entrepreneurial niche to you?

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has almost 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business
    opportunity site www.jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business”, available on
    Amazon
    .