Leadership / Private Equity

You don’t have to be Superman

Superman

I’ve written previously about the next big thing, and how to know when you’re on the cusp of financial greatness.  Interestingly enough, certain signs often pop up around me that remind me of some missed “life changing” opportunities in my own life.

The fact of the matter is, you don’t have to be Superman to find new opportunities, or your own next big thing.  Through my own experiences in the last 30 years, I’ve been able to identify three (3) different things you must have in place when looking for those “diamonds in the rough” (or best new projects to get involved with). These things, by the way, do not include wearing a cape, having the ability to fly or see with X-ray vision.

Before I reveal these three “must-haves,” let me state my case and share some personal experiences with you so this all makes more sense.

“Nay-Sayers” –or thieves of profits and opportunities.

In this case, my own beloved father. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of being a visionary is that sometimes you think you’re the only one (ironically, like Superman).  Let’s point to my father; a great businessman and one of the original marketers of the Mood Ring and the Pet Rock.  But also one of the best “Nay-sayers” you’d ever want to meet.  What I am about to tell you is 100% true.  So let’s use these stories to our advantage!

Example #1 – Commercial warehouses and empty factories in 1982.MFG BUILDING

Contrary to popular belief, people didn’t always live in lofts. In 1982 when the concept of the condominium was still in its infancy, there were millions of empty and abandoned (Industrial Revolution era) warehouses available  as organizations and manufacturing started to move off-shore. These buildings were beautiful! They were built with brick and thick wooden beams, usually next to the water, and just begging to be utilized.  Better yet, they were able to be bought for pennies on the dollar. ”Dad,” I asked, “wouldn’t it make sense to put kitchens in these places and turn them into condos? Again, Condos were the next big thing. “Are you crazy…do you know how much that would cost to convert, son?”  He added, “Those buildings weren’t designed for people to live in.”

Okay, Strike One.

condobedroomExample #2 – Alternative advertising or in this case: Restroom Advertising.

Ahhh…again…the 80s and I’m a “fresh-nosed” kid out of college. Believe it or not, restroom advertising was almost non-existent in 1982.

At that time, my Dad owned an equity stake in a South Florida “supper” club and live music venue.  Upon using the facilities one day and staring at the 4 walls around me, I was trying to think of ways to help him promote an upcoming music event and it hit me!  Keep in mind, the phrase “multi-tasking” was also new back then and like I said and always say, many times opportunities are usually right in front of you. Anyway, I remembered thinking:  “What if we put signage up inside the restroom facilities?” So again, “Hey dad…” Yes, you guessed it: “Are you serious? Do you know how tacky that is? We’re  trying to promote class here!”

 

Here are some key facts (that we now know) about restroom advertising:restroom

  • While viewing restroom advertising, people are literally captive for 30 seconds to 4 full minutes. They cannot change the channel, turn the page, tune to another station, or even turn around to avoid or ignore the message being presented to them.
  • Restroom advertising is read 95-100% of the time.
  • Studies show that 84.4% people recalled seeing specific indoor advertising in the restrooms.

Yes …Strike Two. 

Okay, enough picking on my father.  Let me present one final example (just to make sure you’re paying attention) before I present my three important “must haves.”  Let me help you to know when to open your eyes; get in at the beginning and not the end, and hopefully avoid similar pitfalls and missed opportunities.

premixeddrinksExample #3  – Premixed alcoholic drinks.

Again…the 80s. A time before the Bacardi Breeze, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and pre-made rum and coke cocktails in a can.  I was yearning for the sweet Hurricane, after visiting an iconic bar in New Orleans where the drink is synonymous with the city.  At that time, if you weren’t in New Orleans, you couldn’t get the famous concoction even if you had the recipe. To take this example out even further; everybody has a favorite bartender who can make his or her own favorite drink “just right”—right?  Furthermore, it’s the same every time which is the same concept as franchising. In other words, walk into any McDonald’s in the world and you’ll get the same food and just about the same experience in every location you patronize.

So I shared this “standardization” and branding idea with (no, not my father!), my mother—this time around! By this point, you might’ve considered calling protective services to report abuse or something.  No seriously, she had a “friend.” The infamous friend, we all have them, you know a guy who either is “somebody” or “somebody who knows somebody.”In this case, my mom’s friend was a retired liquor executive, living in South Florida.

Now, I am not making any claims here–just telling the story. I met with this friend, and well let’s just say he said it was “quite interesting,” but not do-able nonetheless.  Alas…another “Nay-sayer.”  Nothing signed and again, nothing done.  Just another missed opportunity. Within 6 months, I saw Hurricane mixes on shelves as well as an array of pre-mixed drinks from many different companies.

Strike Three and a NEW Ball Game.

Okay, NOW, let’s make some money!  In my experience, I can honestly tell you that you must have a few things present in order to identify, qualify, and act on opportunities that come your way.  These must-have things or key factors all point to the way Grace Century chooses its projects.  Everyone has the ability to put these three things into action–and you don’t need to be Superman to do so.

headsCommon Sense

  • Is there a problem that needs solving? Does the proposed solution make something faster, cheaper, easier, or a person’s life better?
  • Can this solution, if it meets the above criteria, be applicable to a mass market?
  • Is it innovative or has it been tried before? If it’s a new concept, then we get to move to the next criteria.

Do-Able

  • Is the technology available or can it be acquired at a reasonable cost?
  • Do we have the “right team,” in place with the experience and ability to implement the plan?
    This is probably as crucial as the actual solution.
  • Is the timing right?
    Especially important if something could be subject to political, governmental, or cultural components.

Risk-Reward

  • If all the components are in place, is the risk-reward appropriate?
    In other words, it doesn’t make any sense to risk $1 to make $1.
  • Are you able to make that investment, both financially and psychologically?
  • Do you have a pre-defined exit to monetize this investment?
    This must be done before you get in.

Examples

Our current Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Dental Stem Cell projects meet all of these parameters.

The trick is to be able to see the opportunity and act on it! These days, I refuse to focus on my missed opportunities and be a “would’ve …could’ve…should’ve” kind of guy.  Instead, I focus on the lessons those missed opportunity situations have taught me. I analyze new  opportunities with all available information, and leave the “Nay-Sayers” in my rear view mirror.  Because by the time they say yes, it’s just going to be way too late.

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2 thoughts on “You don’t have to be Superman

  1. Scott,

    Fantastic write-up. And quoting the missed opportunities makes it such a wonderful article. The Chinese has a saying which is equivalent to Opportunities are hard to come by. It actually reads as “It is hard to meet an Opportunity.”

    Looking back at my life, there were opportunities I did not miss when they appeared in front of me:

    A. Back in 1968, after a week of being very sick, my classmate cycled to my home (yes, the bicycle was the king of transport then) and told me the Japanese Embassy had just advertised for scholarships to Japan. I had not read the papers, we did not even have a phone in my house. Nevertheless, I borrowed our neighbours phone (they were business folks and were richer). Got my brother in Kuala Lumpur to collect the Application forms from the Japanese Embassy. The rest was history. I got the scholarship, went to Japan and it opened the door to the world for me.

    B. In 1973, in early summer I chanced upon a letter from AMP Inc. inviting summer students to do a stint at their factory in USA. I could read Japanese fluently by then. It never occurred to me that the invitation was for Japanese students only and I am a foreigner. I went for the interview. The rest was history. I was one of four students invited to Harrisburg USA. It was my flight across the Pacific and my first experience on a 747. My first visit to USA.

    C. In 1974 in the miserable wintry cold of a small town far away from Tokyo, I was doing my factory attachment. I chanced upon a TV program that interviewed foreign students for an upcoming Friendship Cruise. I called up the Prime Ministers Secretariat and left my name with them. The rest was history…I got on the cruise and met my fiance, now my wife. She is Singaporean and was on the cruise too.

    I can go on. In my career time and again opportunities beckoned and I grabbed them. And I innovated and strategised as I moved along and turn an opportunity into a success.

    The same now applies to my international business and investment. The start point is just that. Hard work, thorough analysis and creativity are turning Provia and Quantum into successful investments. The struggles are not over for both of them but we are well on the way. And I am not sitting on the sidelines watching. Where necessary I plunge in and you know well what I do.

    The same applies to Maghreb 24 TV. It came upon me suddenly but with a life-time of seizing opportunities and not dissecting an opportunity to death initially, I just plunged in. Today, it has the potential to be a mega success.

    I am the Eternal Optimist and the Contrarian. And I take big risks. The difference between success and failure is the the amount of effort one is prepared to plough into the venture.

    Like

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