A Time for Action

Usually, this article would be dedicated to a particular pitch from the previous week’s episode of Dragons’ Den, but today, it’s focused on a piece of advice issued on the den. With a business trying to move forward rapidly before they had a sufficiently strong business model, Arlene Dickinson of Venture Communications made an interesting observation.

Entrepreneurs often think that if they don’t act quickly, the opportunity will disappear. And there’s never been anything more false than that.

The initial reaction to this is that Arlene may have erred in her statement – after all, opportunities come and go, and rapid action is often needed to take advantage of a given opportunity. Reflection, however, shows that Arlene’s years of experience are coming into play as she highlights one of the critical issues with an entrepreneur’s mentality.

It is true that opportunities come and go, and that action is required if you are to take advantage of such an opportunity. However, even when action is required, it should never be done on the basis of it leaving, but rather, because the opportunity is a good one. That is, the action should be taken because after careful evaluation (which is not necessarily a slow process), it was determined that the benefits of the opportunity are worth pursuing, and you are capable of succeeding with it.

As an example, a person who manufactures custom jewelery may have the opportunity to get featured in an internationally read magazine. This would have the potential to seriously increase her exposure, and then sales. However, reflection would show that since she crafts each order herself, the realistic limit on the number of orders she could fulfill is much smaller than what that exposure would provide. As such, the exposure would have some short-term benefits, but until the infrastructure is in place to handle a major increase in volume (for example, using some junior designers to produce the work once it has been designed, with a hiring structure that is easily scaled), the opportunity would actually be bad for the business.

This has happened to many businesses, where they over-extended themselves, and then found themselves unable to meet demand. The action that precipitated the situation was often one of lost opportunity – or rather, a refusal to acknowledge that some opportunities should not be acted upon. If a business wishes to be successful, they need to learn to reflect and to act on careful evaluation relative to the amount of risk the opportunity can create.

And yes, sometimes you will have to act, and sometimes you will have to make decisions quickly. But the decisions should be based on logical evaluations, not emotion.