Monday, April 22, 2024

How to make opportunities happen

| March 3, 2024 1:00 AM

There is an ancient superstition of the sea that periodically a wave comes along that is greater than any that has preceded it. It is called the Ninth Wave, a powerful culmination of sea and wind. There is no greater force.

To catch the Ninth Wave at the critical moment requires a special skill and daring. You must mount the wave precisely at its peak, and it will carry you a great distance to where you want to go.

There is a great lesson here for grasping opportunities in our daily lives. Opportunity doesn't necessarily knock on the door; it may be leaning against the wall, waiting to be noticed. It is about being in the right place at the right time with the right qualifications. It often comes disguised as hard work. Opportunity typically favors those who have paid the price of years of preparation.

There are no limits to our opportunities. Most of us see only a small piece of what is possible. We create opportunities by seeing the possibilities and having the determination to act on them. Opportunities are always out there waiting to be discovered.

Take the experience of Edward Lowe, who was in the business of producing a clay-based material to soak up oil and grease spills. One day, a neighbor asked to use the compound for her cat. Lowe realized he was on to something, started selling his compound to pet stores and soon invented the cat litter industry, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

It's not unusual to find new opportunities for existing products. For example, Arm & Hammer baking soda is used in more than 50% of American refrigerators for odor control, a use that far surpassed its original use for baking.

And don't forget to look for new opportunities in old places. How about the businessperson who took the average laundromat and crossed it with a beer bar with the motto, "Enjoy our suds while you wash your duds." It was a runaway success.

Television repairman Joe Resnick became frustrated every time he installed a TV antenna. They used to come in pieces, many of which were missing and difficult to assemble on a roof, due to frigid weather. He was determined to create an inexpensive, preassembled antenna that was easy to install without requiring the expertise of a specially trained technician. He and his brothers became millionaires, and their TV and radio business empire was worth $45 million. He later was elected to Congress.

Taking advantage of opportunities, especially in marketing and sales, is all about being alert, proactive and prepared. First, you must identify opportunities through customer interactions, market research and feedback. Every touchpoint with a client is a chance to learn what they need and how you can help. Stay informed about industry trends and anticipate where demand might grow. Encourage feedback from customers to understand their challenges and figure out how your company can solve them.

Train your team on product knowledge, problem-solving and soft skills like listening, empathy and communication. Ensure every employee knows your products or services inside and out. Empower employees to think on their feet and offer creative solutions.

The best way to capitalize on opportunities is to be responsive, customize solutions and follow up. When a client expresses a need, act quickly to show you are eager to help. Tailor your products or services to address the specific needs of your clients. After delivering on a request, check in to ensure satisfaction and explore further opportunities.

Build relationships through personal touch, trust and networking. Remember personal details about your clients and use that to build a rapport. Consistently delivering on promises builds trust, opening the door to more opportunities. Use every interaction to expand your network.

By staying agile and adaptable, you are ready to pivot your strategy based on new information or changing market conditions. 

Remember, opportunities are not just about immediate sales; they are about building long-term relationships that lead to sustained growth. It is not just about what you are selling, but how you are helping clients improve their own business and life.

Mackay's Moral: Opportunity comes to those who go looking for it.

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Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website,, by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.