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Edition 97 – The Definition of Opportunity

I’ve worked with family businesses for 30 years now and I’m always amazed at how one person’s opportunity is another person’s disaster – or tragedy – or monotony. Let me explain.

In April of this year, I flew to Chicago to attend Alan Weiss’ Million Dollar Consulting Convention. It was a long commute via Los Angeles and by the time I touched down in the Windy City, it was late, I was tired and my jet lagged state meant I couldn’t find the Uber pick up zone outside the terminal even before I negotiated the app. So, I decided to take a cab instead.

The cab turns up and the enthusiastic cab driver hops out and helps me bundle my bags into the back of his Toyota Prius. As we hop in, he introduces himself and asks for my destination. Perhaps it was my accent. Perhaps it was the jet lagged state, but I needed to reiterate my message more than once.

As we head into Chicago late on a Sunday afternoon, I remark the traffic is unbelievable for a weekend. The conversation then proceeds to each of us telling the other who we are and why we happened to both be inside that cab at that stage in our lives. I can’t remember his name, but let’s say it’s Sam. Sam was originally from Ghana and had attended University in Chicago. He’d met a lovely lady, also Ghanaian, at University, and they now had a young family. My guess is he was early 40s.

I asked him about life in Ghana, Kofi Annan, whether he missed his family back in Ghana and why he chose to live in America. Now, I’d made the assumption that as a cab driver, perhaps he’d not had some opportunities in life and was driving cabs to make ends meet. However, his response was both enlightening and humbling. He chose to stay in the USA as he felt that by doing so, his family would have greater opportunities in life than if they’d moved back to Ghana. Even working long days for low pay was a better opportunity in life for him and his family than packing up and returning to Ghana.

The enlightening element of my interaction with Sam was that what others would consider drudgery or a life to steer away from was seen by him as an opportunity. The humbling element was the joy he took in his work and in making the effort to interact with his passengers in a manner that allowed them to enjoy their journey.

The questions I would like you to consider this week are:

  1. What do you see as an opportunity in your business, yet others can’t?
  2. Why do you see that opportunity, and why can’t those others?
  3. What do others see as an opportunity in your business, but you can’t?
  4. Why can others see that opportunity but you can’t?
  5. How can you articulate the opportunities that you see and how can others articulate the opportunities you don’t see?
  6. What would you have to do to overcome internal opposition to your opportunity?
  7. What would others need to do to overcome any opposition you may have to opportunities you can’t see?
  8. What outside guidance and mentoring would you need to help realise those opportunities, whether you see them or not?


This Week’s Tip

“Out of adversity comes opportunity. So, if you should identify that opportunity in non-adverse times, does that make the opportunity not shine as bright given we are creatures that generally run away from pain, not run towards pleasure?”