When people ask about the various businesses that I run, one of the most common follow-up questions that I receive is “What’s next for you? What’s the next business that you’re going to start?” As someone that runs a few different profitable online businesses, it would be natural to think that I have a list of the next 5 to 10 business ideas I want to pursue in a Word document somewhere and will be pursuing those ideas as soon as I have enough time to do so. However, that’s not the case. I actually have no idea what my next business venture will be and I’m really not all that worried about it. Instead of strategizing about the next several businesses I’m going to start, I simply wait for the right opportunity to knock on my door and pursue it to the best of my ability.
American Consumer News, LLC in 2010 vs. 2014
Four years ago, my company looked completely different than it does today. At the time, my business consisted of four different personal finance blogs which made money primarily from contextual advertising (Google AdSense) and sponsored blog posts. My business was going after a very different target market and made a fraction of the revenue that it does today. Quite frankly, the business model I was using at the time wouldn’t work today and that’s okay. At the time, I didn’t have a grand vision for the series of online businesses that I run today, which begs the question of how these businesses came to be if I didn’t have a master plan for the direction of my company.
The reality is that I have exactly one strategy for building new businesses. I wait for opportunity to show up, and pursue it to the best of my ability. In 2010, I saw that the content I was publishing about investing was getting a lot of traction through places like Google Finance, Twitter and StockTwits. I saw that it was a major opportunity to build an audience of investors and realized that if I was able to publish substantially more content than I was at the time, I would be able to reap a substantial amount of advertising revenue. I seized the opportunity and built out software systems and brought on team members to maximize that opportunity. Four years later, my network of financial news websites is garnering approximately 2.5 million page views per month.
The same could be said about my other two businesses. I started Lightning Releases after recognizing that I could build a competitive news distribution network and could market a press release distribution service relatively cheaply and effectively. I co-founded GoGo Photo Contest after I was approached by a friend that wanted to start the business but didn’t have the business building or marketing expertise that I had. I decided to write a book after recognizing that my good friend Andy Traub could help setup boundaries and a system to ensure that I actually finish the project.
Identifying Real Business Opportunities
If you are or want to become an entrepreneur, opportunities will knock on your door. These opportunities could be people that want to do business with you, a new potential market that you identify, a business deal that could potentially grow your business, a customer that wants you to develop a new product or service or even someone that wants to hire you for a job. Some of them you will be able to immediately discount, like multi-level marketing companies disguised as a “ground floor” opportunities. Some opportunities will be a very easy yes and other opportunities won’t be so clear.
If we had the foresight to see what the results of pursuing every potential business opportunity would be five years down the road, there would be a lot more people willing to do the work of becoming an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know. We simply have to evaluate each opportunity based on the information available and make a best guess as to whether or not it’s something we should pursue.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself about every potential business opportunity you could pursue:
- Who is the person presenting this opportunity? How well do I know them? What kind of track record do they have?
- Do I have the expertise necessary to pursue and maximize this opportunity? If not, am I able to leverage someone else’s talent to leverage this opportunity?
- How much work will I need to put in to seize and maximize the results of pursuing this potential opportunity?
- If everything goes as planned, what’s the most amount of money I will be able to make by pursuing this opportunity?
- If I pursue this opportunity, what won’t I be able to do? What trade-offs will there be?
- How interested am I in this opportunity? Do I want to pursue it? (If your answer isn’t a “heck yes,” say no.)
But Opportunities Aren’t Knocking On My Door…
If you are not regularly running into job and business opportunities, there’s a strong likelihood that you simply don’t know enough people. Ideally, you should have as many as 100 loose business acquaintances in the same or similar industries as you that you touch base with every few months. I’ve found that it’s relatively easy to make new business contacts by attending events relevant to my business and by inviting people out to lunch on a regular basis. I’ve taken the advice of Never Eat Aloen by Keith Ferrazi quite seriously and buy people lunch in my community at least three days each week. I’ve made dozens of new business contacts as a result of simply asking “Hey, would you be interested in grabbing lunch sometime?” on a regular basis.
The other way to recognize business opportunities is to become a voracious learner. If you commit to being a lifelong learner and regularly learn new things about your industry and business and general, you’ll begin to recognize business opportunities—whether that be potential ways to grow your existing business or a potential new business that you could start.
Wait for the Right Opportunity. Seize it. Maximize it.
You really don’t need a grand vision for what your business looks like five years down the road. Instead, you just need to put yourself out there and continually learn about your industry and business in general. New business opportunities will start popping up. You will need wisdom and discernment to evaluate whether or not an opportunity is worth pursuing. Finally, you’ll need real ambition to pursue and maximize an opportunity when a true business opportunity surfaces.