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6 Signs that You May Be an "Opportunaholic" -- And What to Do About It

6 Signs that You May Be an "Opportunaholic" -- And What to Do About It

May 20, 2008

'I'm just so overwhelmed,' the conversation usually begins. 'I have several different companies I'm running and I'm not enjoying any of them. They're not making much money and it will take a tremendous amount of work to turn them around that I just don't have the time and energy for and honestly, I'm not sure they can be turned around.

'But I got this other great opportunity that I know will do great Jon and I want to get your advice ''

That's how many of the phone calls I get begin.

In reality, they should probably begin something like this: 'Hi Jon, my name is Bob and I'm an 'opportunaholic.''

That's the name I've come up with for entrepreneurs who love to chase opportunities ' whether it's creating new businesses, launching new products or adding new services ' while the rest of the business is crumbling around them.

Yes, pursuing opportunities is what makes us tick. It's thrilling, exciting, nerve-racking, unpredictable, wild, frustrating, gut-wrenching and exhilarating all at the same time. That's what drives us to pursue new opportunities, right? It's also intoxicating.

And I really believe that many entrepreneurs get addicted to the rush and the emotions that come with new opportunities. But when rational, prudent and logical decision-making take a back seat that's when I see many business owners driving their businesses right into bankruptcy.

Here are 6 warning signs that you may be an 'opportunaholic:'

1. Your plan only includes adding more opportunities and not taking anything away.

2. You tell others, 'I have no idea how it will work but I just believe it will.'

3. You can't think of any downsides to the next deal you're considering.

4. Your current business(es) aren't meeting expectations.

5. All the opportunities you're considering look like winners.

6. You're already overwhelmed but you continue to pursue new opportunities.

Whether you suffer from one or all six of the warning signs, there are steps you can take get things under control.


For something to live, something must die

The first thing I usually ask is this, 'What are you willing to give up?' You see, for something to live, something must die. It's the nature of life and of business. For a tree to grow in the woods, all the other smaller trees under it die. They can't all co-exist. Only a few will get the sunlight, water and nourishment they need to grow.

The same is true in business. Not everything will get equal treatment and some of the weaker parts of the business must die.

To grow a new company or launch a new product, something else may have to die simply because you can't continue to run everything, especially if you're already overwhelmed.

You either have to kill what you already have, give it over to someone else or turn it into a cash cow by cutting as much expense out of it so it can continue to run and still remain profitable.

You see, 'opportunaholics' I work with don't need any more ideas or better ideas. They need to make better decisions and use better judgment. That's because all of the opportunities they're chasing look great. There's not a bad opportunity among them ' beware of warning #5!

The secret is laser-like focus

Many business owners I've found focus their attention as if it was a flashlight. A flashlight's rays are so dispersed that it will help you see a few feet ahead with every step you take, but it will only take you so far. A laser, however, is much more focused and powerful and can be used to see miles ahead.

By focusing your attention and energy like a laser you can achieve more. Years ago, general stores did very well in markets where there was very little competition. But as competition increased, businesses had to narrow their focus on niches so in one mall you have dozens, if not hundreds, of stores with each one offering something uniquely different.

Same is true in the hyper-competitive food business. Taco Bell, for instance, just focuses on serving good tacos ' fast. Kobe Steak focuses on just serving high-quality steaks. Don't go to Chick Filet for a hamburger.

A colleague of mine was in the mall last weekend and he was telling me about two Chinese restaurants in the food court. One served all the typical meals you would expect ' beef and broccoli, pork fried rice, Szechuan beef, Szechuan chicken, egg rolls, etc. that they spooned out from a food tray. There was no one in line.

The other restaurant served just three meals ' chicken with rice, beef with rice and shrimp with rice, but they cooked the food right in front of you. You could choose between white rice and brown rice. That's it. And there was a huge line of people waiting and watching as their food was cooking.

The successful restaurant focused all its energy on preparing just three very good meals right before your eyes. They had employees giving out free samples. There was an energy and passion among the cooks preparing food. Everyone was focused on selling just a few dishes and they were doing great business!

It just goes to show that your next big opportunity may be to do less ' not more.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,

Jon