Manufacturing Opportunity

Biz Stone, Twitter’s co-founder, recently wrote a piece in Harvard Business Review’s June issue about creating opportunity that really resonated with me. In it, he wrote:

Some people think of opportunity the way it’s defined in the dictionary—as a set of circumstances that make something possible—and they talk about it as if it just arrives organically. You “spot opportunity” or wait around for “opportunity to knock.” 

“I look at it differently. I believe that you have to be the architect of the circumstances—that opportunity is something you manufacture, not something you wait for.”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve long been a firm believer that the person who has a plan wins. It doesn’t have to be a perfect plan, but it does have to be thoughtful and rational. And, it has to be presented with conviction.

Passionate, driven people with a clear and proactive point of view stand out from the rest of the herd. I know that sounds ridiculously simplistic, but we human beings often make things way more difficult than they need to be. How many times have you heard a colleague lament about “if things were different” or “what we ought to do is _______”? Far too many people wait for someone else to initiate change and improvement, missing out on opportunity in the process.

The problem with waiting for opportunity is three-fold. First, it may never come along. Second, waiting wastes precious time for you and your business. And, third, languishing in the status quo creates unnecessary frustration for everyone involved.

I’ve manufactured opportunity throughout my entire career. The best example of this is my time at Outdoor Channel. I started at the network as the Director of Research in late 2004. Very quickly, I noticed that there was no coordinated marketing function – highly unusual for a network in 30 million homes with $100 million in revenue. Instead of promoting our brand with a unified voice, various people inside the network were doing random and disparate marketing activities. There was no cohesive look or message and no organized approach to driving viewership. Surprisingly, we were actually spending a significant amount on marketing activities. Yet, we had no tangible strategy nor were we tracking the return on our marketing investment.

So, after about 10 months in the business, I put together a proposal to start a consolidated marketing function. I presented it to my boss and asked for permission to forward it to the CEO. My boss graciously agreed, and two weeks later, the CEO invited me to his office to discuss my plan. He liked what he saw and presented my proposal to the Board of Directors. A few months later, I was named the network’s first Vice President of Marketing.

Over the next five years, I was promoted two more times under vastly different management regimes. More importantly, I assembled a team of some of the best and most entrepreneurial marketers in all of television. Together, we helped propel Outdoor Channel and had a lot of fun in the process. In 2011, that team won CableFax’s “Marketing Team of the Year Award.” Our “little engine that could” reigned supreme against much larger networks like TBS, TNT and TLC.

It all started with a simple plan.

I’d love to tell you that the plans and strategies I’ve crafted in my long history of creating opportunity have been magical and complex. I’d also love to tell you that they’re something only I could have created. The truth is that anyone with tenacity, conviction and good observation skills can manufacture opportunity.

The next time you find yourself “waiting for opportunity to knock,” knock it on its ass, and come up with your own plan. Always remember that the person with the plan – any plan – usually wins.

To read the entire article on Biz Stone’s inspiring story about creating opportunity, go here: https://hbr.org/2015/06/twitters-cofounder-on-creating-opportunities

 

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