Number four in a series taken from: How to Evaluate and Profit from a Business Opportunity
To steal a technique from Peter Lynch, one of the world's most successful mutual fund managers (Fidelity's Magellan Fund) in his book “One up on Wall Street;" look in your own neighborhoods, focus on businesses that you like to do business with, look for the ones that you can understand and that do a good job. When you find such a business think about how it fits with you self-assessment review. The more connections you start getting, the more likely you and such a business will make a good match.
When you find a business you feel comfortable with and like, go back at slow periods and talk with the manager, or better yet, the owner. Build a relationship. Tell him or her what you have in mind. You may be surprised at what you learn. They may know of a business like theirs for sale in a nearby town. They may be thinking about expanding to a second location but lack the necessary capital or have not yet found the person they would put in charge.
Offer to work there - to learn the business. Present yourself as a possible partner, or manager.
If you are fortunate to find a business that is really doing well, you will learn all the right things to do. If it isn't doing so well, perhaps you will pick up on what the owner is doing poorly, or even better what's been tried without success. Employ the six-sigma technique - ask “Why?" - until you finally hear the real reason, not the ones everybody just guesses at. If you don't hear an answer that makes sense, management may be the problem.
When I was thinking about owning a boat dealership, I went to work for a service-only shop - to learn what was involved in fixing boats and motors. I told the owner that I wanted to buy or build a boat business. He was very happy to show me all I could learn. It was only after I saw the problems the industry had regarding warranty work that I became concerned if there was a future for me in that industry. When a problem occurred the dealer tried to collect from the manufacturer who said that the motor wasn't their problem, they only made the boat. The motor company said that the boat manufacturer must have set the boat up incorrectly, the dealer was forced to question the customer about possible misuse - everybody was fighting with everybody and the boat owner was sorry he ever bought a boat.
So what did I do? With my significant other's keen insight, skills, and talent, we developed relationship building newsletters that boat dealers could send four times a year to their prospects and customers which told how that dealer was different from all the rest. At one point we were sending out 65,000 copies a quarter. We soon began giving workshops at the annual boat retailer's convention on how to build customer relationships.
The only way to find and define opportunities is to get the word out that you are looking to buy or build a business. Tell everyone you know; go to as many business networking meetings and community involvement meetings as you can. Subscribe to the Sunday editions of all the major newspapers in your area and comb the classifieds. Contact the brokers or owners of opportunities for sale and ask for information.
Follow up on anything that looks interesting. Keep in mind that as with dating, it's highly unlikely you will marry the first person you date, but it's quite possible that you will marry someone that first date introduces you to.
Use the To Do list at the end of Chapter Four in my book to help you define opportunities.
By Art Consoli
Art Consoli held eight corporate positions with Johnson & Johnson before starting his first business. He went on to build over twenty businesses from patents or ideas or from businesses others couldn't make successful. These ranged from starting a veterinarian drug company to taking over a steel fabricating company to developing the first manufactured home subdivision to qualify for every private and government assisted mortgage program in Arizona. He also did ten workouts for lenders and owners; the last was a $30 million, 300 employee, precision parts manufacturing plant that made parts for the auto industry. Consoli's unique background and skills allow him to speak and write about how someone with limited experience can do a self-evaluation which will let him decide which business opportunity is best, how to evaluate opportunities and gain control over the one which offers the greatest potential and then manage that business to success. Readers of his book call and write to tell him how much his book has helped their lives and improved their business.