Opportunity or Distraction?

Growing a business is not an easy thing to do. Throughout the years, I’ve seen and heard of many entrepreneurs’ stories on the challenges they have faced. One recurring theme is making a wrong assessment of what seemed like great opportunities. It can come in the form of, for example, the distribution of a new brand, expansion to a neighboring market, riding the wave of the latest fad, etc.

There’s this time in which I had a disagreement with my then boss regarding a sponsorship. He got a call from someone who told him of a great opportunity. Since the sport was very trendy within the A+ youth in the country, he was all for it. To be fair, we were talking about the young and beautiful that all brands would love to be with. I argued that it didn’t make sense since we did not have any product offer for that sport. We certainly would get exposure to the right target group but confuse them to what the brand stands for. The marketing working budget was limited (as they all are) and I preferred to spend it in a way that would tie directly back to the business. For me, it was a distraction.

This is not something that only happens to small and medium sized business either. Maybe you remember when ebay bought Skype in 2005. Four years later, they sold to an investor group. Skype was ultimately sold to Microsoft. How did Skype help the overall business for ebay? What is the synergy between these two companies? What added value can they give consumers? Because of merger failed, one can assume that there were miscalculated expectations. Ebay consumers did not care for Skype services.

So, what would you do if you want to grow? Here is when proper planning comes in. No matter the size of your business, strategic 3- and 5-year plans are a good idea to invest your time in.

Determine your long-term vision. Set your goals and map out how to reach them. Understand the core of your business and your strengths so that you can identify when a real opportunity shows up. Know what needs to be done. However, it is just as important to know what not to do.

Plans help you stay focused on your priorities. They are also the framework in which you evaluate success. Are you meeting the objectives you have set? If not, why? What do you need to adjust? Moreover, resources are limited and having a plan gives you guidance when making investment decisions. Do your research before jumping in.

Would that proposal you received catapult the business?  Is it a nice to have?  Or, will it take you down the wrong path? In short, is that proposal an opportunity or a distraction? Making plans does not guarantee success. But, it certainly improves the chances. Not having a plan would surely lead to a few headaches along the way.