The Opportunity Funnel

Unlike people, not all business opportunities are created equal.  Some of them are obvious duds the minute you hear them and some might be no-brainers to be jumped on right away.  There may be others that seem to be superb initially but upon deeper digging are not so good.  On top of this, a business owner may not always be looking for new opportunities. I find it enjoyable to speak to established  leaders to find out how they started in business. From these conversations and my own startup experience, there seems to be at least three modes of evaluation that a business owner can be in, as they evaluate opportunities that come along: opened, tight and closed. A way to visualize these three modes is through the illustration of a funnel.

The Open Funnel

An opened funnel makes it easy to catch whatever it is you are wanting.  When I think of a funnel I typically picture one used to change the oil in vehicle. It has a large, open end so that when the oil is ready to go in, it is easy to get it poured into the funnel so that oil makes it into the inner parts of the engine instead of spilling all over the outside.  This can demonstrate the attitude of someone just beginning their business, who probably has a large, opened funnel for receiving opportunities.  This was the experience related to me from a client of mine recently.  Before they were even considering starting a business, someone in their personal network was in need of a trustworthy person to perform some simple routine maintenance on a property.  My client agreed and over time this small opportunity multiplied many times over to develop into a thriving company with dozens of employees today.  That was the end result of having an opened funnel.

The Tight Funnel

The next mode an owner might be in at some season of their business would be that of a tight funnel.  I am no Star Wars nerd (at least not compared to friends of mine), but for this one, I couldn’t help but think of the epic scene where Luke Skywalker had to hit the tiny  target in order to destroy the Death Star.  Not just any shot was going to make it in because the opening was very tight.  For an established business owner who has cultivated direction due to earlier experiences, the criteria they use to entertain opportunities are going to be much tighter.  This is necessary for them so that they do not get sidetracked from their core business and constantly going in new directions.  However, because they may still be hungry for growth, they may leave the door opened so that just the right opportunity might sneak in for them.

The Closed Funnel

Finally, in certain phases of a business owner’s life, they may want to close the lid temporarily on their opportunity funnel.  “Lid” is a good term to use here because it would likely never be wise to close yourself off to all future options and so you will need to open it back up at some point.  But it may be wise to close it for a season in certain conditions.  One such scenario could be in the middle of an expansion where you are investing a lot of time, energy and money to see growth in specific areas.  Entertaining other opportunities in the middle of such a period could be disastrous and result in a waste of what has already been invested. Overall, any time a period of intense focus is needed for a business, the opportunity funnel lid should likely remain closed for the time being.

To recap, somebody just starting out in business will want to keep their opportunity funnel wide open to gain experience, an established but hungry owner will want to keep the funnel tight to wait for just the right ones to come along, and then an owner may go through periods of intense focus where they are temporarily closed off to new paths.  As a side note, all this talk of opportunity causes me to step back and thank the Lord for the blessing to live in a land of opportunity where anybody can apply hard work and determination to forge a profitable business.  May God continue to bless America and let us never cease to give him praise.

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