Men’s Talks

Unlocking Opportunities in the Environment

The economy can accommodate more entrepreneurs than we have today if everyday people know how to identify and convert opportunities in their environment into viable businesses and income earners.

The conversation

Beatrice ordered green tea and Bisi, a cup of cappuccino. They had not met since their mandatory national service some four years ago.

Beatrice and Bisi were graduates of Mathematics. They had had their share of weal and woe in life from the labour market to job offers with meagre salaries, marriages, quitting jobs to start a family, and the second waves of job search.

They ran into each other on Facebook and agreed on the rendezvous. Memories were relived with giggles and light sobs until a dramatic couple across interrupted their reunion.

It was an unusual couple. They had been bickering over their only son’s poor performance in Mathematics ahead of his junior secondary school examinations in a few months. They were really having a difficult conversation.

“Ms, my son is going to fail Mathematics and my husband seems unperturbed!” the woman mechanically walked up to Bisi who obviously was irritated by the behaviour. Beatrice’s quick reflex seized the moment! “Madam, we understand your frustrations,” said Beatrice “and coincidentally we are Mathematics teachers.”

“Can we coach your son?” she enquired. The couple agreed and engaged the friends as private tutors.

Opportunity resides in difficulty

People encounter opportunity every day but it disguises as difficulty. Opportunity presents itself as problems to be fixed, crises to be resolved, services to be rendered, issues to be tackled and solutions to be procured.

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When there are unhappy customers, a long queue, delayed delivery, extra money in your account or you are broke, down and out, there you find an opportunity to become an entrepreneur.

Problems are not designed to humiliate you. You should solve them. If you fail to do so, others will and you will pay a price to enjoy the solution.

The Irony of Ali Hafed

Russell Conwell narrated the story of Ali Hafed in his Acres of Diamond lectures. Ali Hafed was a wealthy Persian farmer who after a discourse with a visiting priest sold his property and went in search of a mine of diamonds.

He searched and searched. Penniless, ragged, wretched and hopeless, he ended it at the Bay of Barcelona in Spain. Meanwhile, the buyer of his land dug in his backyard and discovered a mine of diamonds.

People should ‘dig their backyards’ for opportunities.

The International Office on Migration stated that over 40,000 illegal migrants have lost their lives since 2000 and another 55,000 caught in smugglers’ web of human trafficking and crime as they tried to enter Europe through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

The numbers of undocumented people who are wasting away on the home frontiers are more.

Unlocking opportunities

The everyday people can uplift themselves from socio-economic problems of hunger, homelessness, unemployment and other vulnerabilities to become economically self-independent.

A positive mental attitude to life is the first requirement for unlocking opportunities. Scepticism, cynicism, pessimism and anger against the government cannot fuel the inner drive to find opportunities.

You need an “I-am-born-in-the-slum-but-the-slum-is-not-born-in-me” mentality to fight. It is not over unless you quit. Problems can be solved. It begins with a strong belief in yourself. Life is a risky venture and you lose nothing taking a calculated risk.

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Never surrender your will to live and succeed in life!

You should not get too familiar with yourself or your environment. Familiarity encourages complacency and robs you of innovativeness. The approach to problems that creates opportunities is to not complain or grumble but take a critical look in order to gain insights capable of generating solutions.

You can sell the ideas to others if you do not have the competence to offer the right solutions. Either way, you are creating wealth from unlocking opportunities.

Problems speak the language of opportunities if you learn to listen attentively when others speak. Always approach every conversation with diligence. Simply put, always allow people to talk and learn to listen more than you talk in a conversation. You open up a world of infinite possibilities when you listen.

You should not be afraid to ask questions. Gaps and deficiencies crop up in service delivery when people settle into routines.

You should be bold enough to interrogate any process, ask probing questions.

However, ask with the intention to help find solutions instead of irritating others or projecting an air of superiority.

Problems give way when you interrogate them. Can it be done better? Is this the best we can offer? Are the customers happy? Are there simpler or easier ways to get things done?

Knowledge of the customers and market opens up the frontiers of opportunities. A customer survey or market research can determine gaps, areas of needs and viability of opportunities you have identified, and how you can convert them.

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Becoming an entrepreneur is easier when everyday people begin to unlock opportunities and interrogate problems as a springboard for generating ideas to power start-ups and new business ventures.

Babatunde Fajimi is a visionary entrepreneur and management consultant. He serves as Managing Director/CEO at Kairos Business Services Limited. He blogs at Last Days Watch and tweets from @bfajimi

This article was first published in Punch Newspaper


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