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About Merlyn on Media

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County. Merlyn’s blog focuses on all-things media, with an emphasis on how community-based media can make our county a better place to live, work and play.... Read more

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Kids, Soccer and Where to Find Your Business Opportunities

Have you ever watched a little kids’ soccer game?
When they’re first starting out, the kids chase around the ball like some two legged school of fish. It’s hilarious to watch this mass of a dozen kids follow the ball across the field.

My youngest son Alexander was very much like this when he first started playing soccer. He’s five now, and with a couple years of experience learned he has a much greater chance of actually doing something significant in the game by watching where the gaps in the players are and looks for open field. So Alexander waits patiently, conserves his energy, then pounces on the ball when invariably it shoots out of the pack and comes his way. With a clear field in front, he races down the field and works the ball into the net.
2014-05-11 20.20.02

Are you like the pack, following everyone else? Or are you like the kid who waits and prepares for his/her opportunity?

In this age of social marketing and the associated flurry of online opportunities, it’s so easy to chase every new technology, attend every networking event and buy every new training program that promises instant success for your business or nonprofit.

Sure, some of these are important and shouldn’t be ignored. But most are likely a waste of our valuable time, like a group of kids chasing a ball.

As you gain experience, you become less enamored with shiny objects and more selective at where you place your resources. Similar to soccer, hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said the key to his success was not skating to where the puck was, but where it was going to be.

Here’s 3 ways to help you do that in YOUR organization:

First, find only one or two groups in which you spend your time networking or gaining business insights. No one person can research and cull through every new gadget or business idea, yet the ‘wisdom of crowds’ can be a tremendous source of understanding what could take your business or NPO to the next level. And if you’re not finding that special mix of people, create your own. A friend of mine formed a weekly Mastermind group that teleconferences to discuss the challenges each is facing and receive feedback and support. No one can and should be an island in the world… but don’t waste your time chasing every networking after-hours.

Second, get inspired. If you’re like me, you find yourself getting mentally bogged down in the day-to-day activities that it takes to run a business. Yet your company NEEDS you to poke your head up over the computer screen and think outside the CPU. For me, that includes reading success stories of orgs mostly OUTSIDE my industry who are creating change. Subscribe to two or three aggregators of such content. I really like my daily dose from STREET FIGHT DAILY, which focuses primarily on the changing face of retail (a subject which fascinates me) and SmartBrief (which has sub newsletters on HR, Management and Social Media). If you subscribe already, list your favorites in the Comments below.

And Third, ask your customers for THEIR ideas and really listen to that they have to say… up to a point. Your best source of continuous improvement to your business most likely comes from outside your building. Of course, keep in mind that no consumer ever asked for a microwave before it was invented. HonestKidsGrabIn other words, customers are probably not going to describe the next best product or service you should offer. What customers WILL help you do is find those open spots on the field where THEY find value and YOU discover others are not yet delivering. Bethesda’s own Seth Goldman from Honest Tea was already making a killing in the natural tea market when he heard parents complaining about the lack of natural drinks for kids that weren’t full of sugar. While Seth wasn’t going to start developing a line of tea for kids, he did see how he could leverage his ‘natural’ market position into a totally new product line of juice drinks for children: Honest Kids.

Like the playing field, you can’t just stand around in your business and wait for things to happen. Yet in a world of limited time and resources, you’re forced to think smarter and not chase every prospect. Find the options that work best for you, and listen between the lines to your customers who might just crowdsource your next great leap.

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About Merlyn Reineke

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County.


One Response to “Kids, Soccer and Where to Find Your Business Opportunities”

  1. Avatar
    On May 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm responded with... #

    Love this article. Go Alexander.

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