Missing Opportunities

In London a few years ago, just before the 2012 Olympics, I was looking for an Olympics store to pick up some memorabilia, particularly some pins, ‘cuz you know, if you’re an athlete it’s all about the medals, but if you’re a spectator, it’s all about the pins. I found an online store, but it was pretty limited. There were some things for sale in various museum shops around the city, but not too much. Nowhere could I find a physical store that I could walk into and snoop around. I saw the same thing in Hong Kong back in 2008, just before the Games in China, with a small shop but very little to sell.

I was reminded of that this week, as I was talking to people in Kuala Lumpur about the upcoming Southeast Asia Games, which will start in KL in a week, and I found they did not even realize the event was about to happen in their city. Now, the SEA Games is like a regional Olympics, held every two years, and cities bid for the opportunity to host it. I was looking for information about the Games — a friend is competing and I’m trying to go an watch him run — and I found the SEA Games website had very little specific information about the event itself. In fact, I had to go to my friend to get information about the Marathon route, because it’s not on the website. I also looked to see if there’s an online store, and there’s not. Compare that with Singapore, which hosted the 2015 Games, and which had popup stores on Orchard Road with Team Singapore gear months in advance of the Games.

Now, I used to live in Colorado Springs, home of the US Olympic Training Center, so I’m used to something a little different. There’s a shop there open year-round, and things get crazy as the Olympics approach. Why? Because it’s a special event, and there’s an opportunity here that should be taken advantage of. There’s an excitement associated with the Olympic Games and when people are excited, let’s face it…they buy things. Malaysia is missing out on an opportunity to not only improve their international reputation, but also to pocket a little cash by attracting more people to fly in for the event.

Are YOU missing out on business opportunities? Are you ignoring one-off possibilities because they don’t fit into your long-range plan? It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day work that we don’t always see new opportunities that emerge, no matter how big and publicized they are.

Part of the problem may be that when we have a good strategic plan, we try to follow it rather than looking for new things. Having a plan is great, but what if that plan allowed for new opportunities? Maybe part of your planning should include some flexibility to do new things as they come up. We are all familiar with Google’s “20% rule,” where employees are expected to spend 20% of their time on projects other than their regular work; that’s one way to do it. Another might be to build enough slack time into or between projects that you have the ability to work on new things when the opportunity arises. The trick is to not be so wedded to a strict plan that you miss out on other emerging opportunities.

Sure, this is a little different from the London Olympics’ committee or the SEA Games missing out on the revenue a store would generate, but the point is the same: watch for the opportunities you may be missing.The London organizers didn’t just miss out on revenue (which every Olympics needs), they also missed out on the chance to build excitement (which every Olympics host city needs even more). One thing I looked for in London that spring was a sense of growing anticipation about the Games, but most Londoners just seemed bored by the whole idea. Yes, I know, hosting the Olympics causes a lot of hassles for a city, so it would help a lot to create more excitement and less dread. The same goes, on a smaller scale, for the SEA Games.

And you’d be amazed what some pins could do.

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