How to create [business] opportunities

I met with several (aspiring) Bhutanese entrepreneurs and students during my short trip back home last week. While I was generally impressed with this newfound energy, curiosity and willingness that now seem to permeate the streets of Thimphu – I was overcome with a sense of helplessness whenever I was asked this question.

‘What new business opportunities do you see in Bhutan?’

I get asked this question a lot. And I really don’t understand why. For all intents and purposes, I am a visitor in my home country these days [My visits back home are usually last minute, and motivated by a sudden longing for fresh mountain air and my mum’s cooking.] And so when I am faced with this question, my usual response is, ‘What problems do you see in Bhutan?’

When you think of some of the most successful companies today, they did not start with a product or a business model in mind – they started with a problem. And as far as I am concerned, there are so many problems present in our communities that need solving – everything from social and economic challenges, to infrastructure problems, and improvements that can be made in health and education. 

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur that’s looking for business opportunities – start by taking a harder look at what the big problems in your local communities are – and what you can do to help solve them. Great entrepreneurs are motivated by great problems – because in the long run the pursuit of purpose is far greater than the pursuit of profit.

Instead of asking what business opportunities are out there, ask what problems need solving, and the business facet will come inherently.

Another question I find people asking [not necessarily directed at me] is ‘What are your goals?’

It is easy to dream.

It is easy to tell people about your goals – to create vision boards and write down them down. It’s easy to stand in front of a mirror and declare affirmations. But that’s where most people stop.

The hard part is answering ‘How will you achieve your goals?’

Simply wanting to achieve something is not enough. You need to know how to secure it –by gathering the knowledge base, acquiring the skills, and putting in a lot of work to make it a reality.

You need to be willing to work extremely hard for it and be prepared to face the dark side of the playground nobody talks about – the countless rejections, the people issues, the long sleepless nights, and the daily drudgery mixed with several breakdowns. We need to start talking about the painful distance between the chipper narratives of hard work and success.

Instead of asking yourself what your goals are,  ask how will you achieve them. Once you understand and accept these realities, the question of ‘what’ can be the North Star to your ‘how’

I was surprised that there wasn’t a more tightly knit community for Bhutanese entrepreneurs – especially since this culture of sharing and social safety nets is heavily embedded in other aspects of our communities. When I interrogated a few people on why this was the case – the common rhetoric was: What if he/she steals my idea?

Why does everyone in the country feel like they’re sitting on the next billion-dollar idea? And that to utter what it is means that someone will snatch it right away?

If there is one thing I know for certain from my very short start-up career – it is that your ideas need to be shared and reinforced by the community. The biggest asset you have as an entrepreneur is your network – and bouncing ideas and problems back and forth with others who have similar or complementary skill sets means you build a community of innovators who can all teach and learn from one another.

Sharing your idea doesn’t put you at the risk of losing it – it instead gives you the opportunity to see its full potential. An idea is only unique in its execution and day-to-day operations – the notion that you need to be the ‘first mover’ is a thing of the past.

Instead of asking what if he/she steals my idea, ask how he/she can amplify its full potential. Trust me – every single idea that’s crossed your mind has already been thought of and executed by thousands before you. The only way you can outrun your competitors is by learning from them.

So lets stop wishing for the next big business idea to fall on our laps – and instead identify problems that need fixing. Lets start asking the harder question of how we can get there, and tap into our biggest resource – our communities and figure out how we can achieve our goals together!

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