How Serendipity Can Play a Crucial Role in Your Business Success (Just Like it Did for Starbucks)

  • October 3, 2017
  • by:Serhat Pala

This article originally appeared on Inc.

You can find many stories of successful companies that originated from a serendipitous moment like two people randomly meeting or someone being in a certain place at a certain time. The good news is you can even help increase your own serendipity with the help of science. Call it: science-dipity.

Researcher Richard Wiseman, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire, has studied and written extensively about good fortune and says it’s not chance at all, but a certain way of living that makes some people more serendipitous than others.

These people employ four key characteristics in their lives. Let’s take a look at these in the context of how one of the largest modern business empires, Starbucks, got started.

Maximizing chance opportunities

Opened in 1971 in Seattle’s historic Pike Market by English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegel and writer Gordon Bowker, the original Starbucks only sold roasted whole coffee beans and coffee making equipment.

A decade after opening, Swedish coffee maker company Hammarplast sent one of its marketing executives there to investigate why this little shop in Seattle sold more of its coffee makers than Nordstrom.

That marketing executive? Current Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

Wiseman says serendipitous people are “skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities,” and they do this by “networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.”

We can see here that Schultz is adept at noticing and acting on a chance opportunity to network with clients of his then-employer, Hammarplast.

How you can do it: Keep an open mind to what everyone has to say. You might not think a certain person is worth talking to, but that person could spark an idea for you or be the connection you never knew you needed.

Listening to gut talk

Schultz was immediately smitten with the business because Starbucks’ core mission actually centered around “teaching the customers the art of making coffee.” Selling coffee beans was just a result of having this core mission.

For some of us, listening to our guts means knowing when it’s lunch, but for serendipitous people, it means instinctively knowing a good opportunity when it comes along. Wiseman says people who have a lot of serendipity in their lives listen to their intuition. Obviously Shultz’s intuition was telling him this coffee thing had a bright future to it.

Initially, the original Starbucks crew was reluctant to hire Schultz, believing that he was too eager to grow the brand, preferring instead to grow it gradually. In 1982, after agreeing to grow Starbucks at a slower pace, he quit his higher paying Hammarplast job and signed on with the coffee bean retailer, who sent him to Milan in 1983 to attend a housewares show. What he came back with — a template for the ideal coffee shop from Italy’s cafes — would go on to change American culture.

This is another instance of Schultz following a hunch and seeing it pan out in the best possible way.

How you can do it: Quite simply, listen to your intution and take a risk when it “feels” right. True, your gut might steer you wrong sometimes, but if you just have a good feeling about something, try it out and see where it takes you.

Turning misfortune into fortune

Unfortunately for Schultz, the founders of Starbucks weren’t in business to change American culture and didn’t want to become a cafe chain. Ultimately, he left the company and formed his own line of cafes, branded as “Il Giornale.”

Wiseman says people who enjoy a lot of fortunate circumstances in their lives do it by turning around situations where they experience misfortune by seeing the positives in the situation.

In this case, Schultz didn’t dwell on having to leave Starbucks to realize his dream, he simply viewed it as an opportunity to start his own business with a concept that was already proven to work.

How you can do it: Always look at the lessons you can learn from failure and the opportunities a mistake creates. There’s no use dwelling on the past, so you might as well get whatever positives you can out of a bad situation.

Expecting good things to happen

In 1988, the original Starbucks owners decided they wanted to pursue other ventures and sold the company to Schultz, who immediately rebranded Il Giornale to Starbucks and went on to have modest success with it.

People who experience a lot of serendipity in their lives are certain the future is going to be full of good fortune, Wiseman says. Therefore, they approach life full of confidence and positive thoughts, which actually help to shape their future. It makes their expectation for good fortune a self-fulfilling prophecy, just like Schultz did with his eternal optimism about the Starbucks format.

How you can do it: Be confident and think positively and approach every situation with this mindset. If you expect bad things to happen, they likely will. So expect good things to happen instead.

Be cognizant of how you shape your own world. Opportunity may be the one to knock on your door, but serendipity is the one that makes sure you’re home at the time. Good luck.

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