How to Say ‘Yes’ When an Opportunity is Outside Your Wheelhouse
- June 27, 2014
- by:Zeynep Ilgaz
This article was originally posted on WeWork
They say that opportunity doesn’t knock twice. The truth is that opportunity maynever knock on your door. It might only be a tap on the back window. We often narrow our view of opportunities to our own comfort zones or fields of expertise, but this causes us to miss out on a world of possibilities. Saying “yes” to unexpected opportunities outside our expertise can open new doors and lead to great success.
Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone
When my husband and I lived in Turkey, we dreamed of moving to the United States. Shortly after we married, we moved to San Diego with two suitcases. I had always loved fashion and hoped to start my own business in design.
However, during my husband’s thesis project, we discovered an opportunity in the field of medical testing. It was a competitive field, but there was plenty of room for growth and new players. We knew absolutely nothing about medical testing, but during dinner one night, we decided to take the plunge, anyway. It was a good strategic opportunity. We dove in.
Why Enter a Field You Know Nothing About?
I never would have guessed that we would enter the medical field, but it proved to be fulfilling and rewarding. We have been growing a business, rather than waiting for something perfect that might never come. If you sit around waiting for the perfect opportunity, you become a wisher instead of a doer. I wanted my dream to become a reality.
One Opportunity Leads to Another
As you enter a field and begin establishing yourself, even more opportunities arise. Several strategies can ensure that your business isn’t missing out on chances for growth.
Start small. We worked out of our home for our business’s entire first year to reduce costs. As a result, we never needed to pursue outside funding. This made things simpler, easier, and more flexible at a point when many startups feel chaotic.
Frequently revise your business plan. We began by selling only a few products online, but we soon saw unexpected opportunities in laboratory services. We made some big changes to our business plan, and lab services now make up half our revenue.
If we weren’t willing to revise our plan, we may have lost that revenue to competitors. We also decided to expand internationally. We had demand for international dealings much earlier than expected and revised our business plan again. International business now makes up one-third of our revenue.
Watch the market. Educate yourself and your team on a continual basis. This may seem obvious when you enter a new field, but you must keep up the practice to regularly find new opportunities. Attend industry events and read industry publications and blogs to foresee approaching trends. Your observations will help spark new ideas for your company.
Listen to your customer. Your customers can give you insider information on upcoming trends that you won’t learn at trade shows or in publications. The best way to learn their pain points is to speak with them directly and understand their experiences in your field.
Keep an open mind. No matter how long you’re in the business or how successful you are, you will never know everything. Be prepared to learn something new every day so you can be ready for opportunities.
Design operational processes that embrace change. As you grow, keep in mind that processes need to adjust with new products and services. Create an easy workflow of operations so you don’t have to put new ideas on hold while production or inventory management catches up.
Build a strategic team. When you’re open to them, new opportunities can come flooding in. When we look at an opportunity, the first thing we determine is whether or not it’s strategic. We filter all opportunities and only focus on the strategic ones.
You need to hire a trustworthy team to help you in the filtering process. They should be your additional eyes and ears on the market to help you identify, select, and implement strategic opportunities.
Starting a new business can be scary. Starting one in a field you know nothing about is even more nerve-wracking. But don’t be afraid to answer the door (or window) and welcome those unexpected opportunities with open arms.
Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry, for which Ilgaz serves as president. Confirm BioSciences is committed to being on the cutting edge of offering new, service-oriented drug testing technologies.