Nearly all the entrepreneurs I interview on my Money Talk radio show on KCAA convey a message similar to what Manuel Martinez, of the Success Training Institute in Los Angeles, said last February: "Do something familiar. Don’t do what you don’t know.“
That’s prudent advice, given the risk of failure for startups. But exceptions apply.
For example, Ben Follansbee, an MBA student at the UCLA Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently told me on air how his company SparkleSlap.com became an overnight success.
Follansbee launched the company in less than 12 hours earlier this month. He realized that Australian online company ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com had to suspend operatioins due to an inability to meet demand: filling orders for people to send packages of glitter to their foes.
Realizing that the barriers to entry in the "glitter bomb” business were low, Follansbee activated a plan. After an all-nighter in his apartment, his company, SparkleSlap.com, entered the glitter-bomb industry.
When a package of glitter opens and goes everywhere, “it’s such an inconvenience that it really does work well as kind of a vengance service," Follansbee said. "But at the same time glitter does tend to make things sparkly and pretty,” he added, noting some customers are also sending packages to friends and family.
As such, Follansbee represents an often misunderstood breed of business owner.
Related: What Kind of Entrepreneur Are You?
He is what Boston-based Visible Measures CEO Brian Shin called the opportunist entrepreneur – someone who “recognizes that a particular situation presents an opportunity to make money and goes for it.” Added Shin: “Many entrepreneurs get their start this way, as the best ‘opportunistic’ opportunities often do not require much start-up capital and often have a sense of urgency about them.”
But not all view opportunistic entrepreneurs in a flattering light: Sutevski Consulting CEO Dragan Sutevski called them selfish, "only opportunity seekers, while entrepreneur visionaries are persons who recognize the real opportunity.”
Nonetheless Follansbee is not ashamed of his opportunistic endeavors. “I saw an opportunity to capitalize on the viral success of the ‘glitter bomb’ industry and I maximized the opportunity,” he shares with me by email.
And the environment for opportunistic entrepreneurs is only getting better, wrote Heesun Wee in Alley Watch in August: “Six years following a deep recession, new data has revealed that more American entrepreneurs are launching businesses based on perceived opportunities and a broad optimistic outlook – a group sometimes called opportunity entrepreneurs.”
The following are three tips for the opportunistic entrepreneur:
1. Be prepared for any opportunity.
An opportunistic entrepreneur will not know when or where the chance will arise but must be constantly on the lookout and prepared to act on a moment’s notice.
Follansbee encourages opportunistic entrepreneurs to “have a great team of partners and advisors around you at all times.”
Putting a team together when an opportunity arises is too late. Opportunistic entrepreneurs must have a solid network of diverse individuals ready to call upon for advice and support.
Indeed as Napolean Hill wrote in Think Rich and Grow, “one of the tricks of opportunity” is that it has "a sly habit of slipping in by the back door, and often it comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.”
2. Perfection is the opportunity killer.
Don’t aim to be flawless. As Mark Gagnon, entrepreneurship coordinator at the Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University, wrote about a new business idea: “So what if it’s not perfect? At least you are moving forward and are not idled by the impossible, stifling ideal of perfection.”
Opportunistic entrepreneurs must focus on exploiting the chance to be among the first to market. Once the product or service is made available and announced to the world, others seeking to exploit the same opportunity may abandon their effort, reducing the competition.
And Creación de Empresas, edited by Enric Genescà, observed that an opportunistic investor is “someone who seizes business opportunities regardless of the sector in which they occur.”
3. Dig in.
Finding an opportunity to exploit is the easy part. The real work comes once the operation is up and running. Says Follansbee: “Feel good about what you’re doing and be prepared to work your butt off.”
Media entrepreneur Aaron M. Sanchez believes every entrepreneur possesses a bit of opportunist. “Sure, some entrepreneurs are driven by a specific industry or product or service,” Sanchez tells me in an interview. “But most of the entrepreneurs I know, in the media industry and outside, are all about finding an opportunity and making the most of it for as long as possible.”
Related: 7 Risks Every Entrepreneur Must Take