Social, economic and political forces shape the environment in which we do business. As economies grow or shrink, demographics change and political regimes are replaced, so new business opportunities emerge.
The recent changes in the global economy have given rise to a new set of business trends. Here are eight of the most important developments that will lead to new business opportunities in the months ahead:
1. The imminent retirement of baby boomers. The first wave of baby boomers are scheduled to retire in 2011, yet most of these people’s retirement funds have been sorely depleted as a result of the financial meltdown. They are going to be looking for smart ways to supplement their income from retirement annuity funds in the future. If you can provide them with simple solutions to do this or with services and support as they seek to find new sources of income, then you will tap into an emerging market.
2. Economic uncertainty and fear. Most people and organisations are still gripped by fear and uncertainty when it comes to making economic predications or taking bold bets on the future. The tumultuous ride in 2008 and early 2009 has left people with a longing for certainty and stability. Those who can help alleviate uncertainty for others will tap into new markets and find new sources of revenue. Those who are brave enough to take some bold steps in these uncertain times may find that they pay off handsomely.
3. Government involvement in economies. The meltdown of the financial services industry across the globe has put governments on the alert. With large amounts of state funds now propping up private enterprises, the influence of governments on economies has increased. There is a strong likelihood of more regulation going forward. With new regulation comes opportunity; look at how accounting firms have benefited from increased regulation in financial reporting since the fall of Enron and the emergence of Sarbanes-Oxley.
4. Clean energy and greener business. Although the recession has diverted people’s attention away from green issues, there is still a strong focus on managing businesses and the environment in a more sustainable way. Venture capitalists have large amounts of money set aside for green investments and many of the green ideas that were launched two years back at the height of the boom are now entering the market. In the coming months we will see a host of electric cars come to market, many of them developed by new independent companies. We will also continue to see bio fuels become a more mainstream alternative to current fossil fuels. New industries are emerging and with those come opportunities for entrepreneurs.
5. Social networking and online community building. Just when we think online and mobile social networking tools have reached their peak a new concept emerges. Currently Twitter is all the rage but what will be next? Social networking is now a mainstream activity and existing businesses are scrabbling to figure out what that means for their promotion, marketing and distribution efforts. There are opportunities to create new applications for existing platforms and to help other companies figure out how to use existing applications to make them more competitive.
6. Mobile and cloud computing. Many of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world – Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon – have made large investments in mobile and cloud computing, a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualised resources are provided as a service over the Internet. They are likely to flex their muscle to make these investments pay off. As Apple continues to push the iPhone, Google will continue to develop its suite of online applications and Microsoft and Amazon will encourage users to embrace cloud computing. Users will need support to embrace these new technologies and companies that can provide products and services to make the technologies more effective will ride the wave.
7. Micro enterprises and solo entrepreneurs. The economic recession resulted in many layoffs. As people struggle to find work in traditional corporations, it is predicted that many of them will look to go into business for themselves. This will give rise to a new wave of micro enterprises and solo entrepreneurs. These people are looking for ideas, opportunities and support as they embark on launching a business for the first time.
8. Training, retooling and low cost education. Some people view the lack of opportunity in traditional job markets as a chance to develop new skills. For example, autoworkers in the US realise that many of their skills are no longer desirable in their home country. As a result they are looking for cost efficient ways of acquiring new skills. Online and distance education solutions as well as any other low cost ways of providing education present big opportunities in the current environment.
Tools for Uncovering New Ideas
Develop a research orientation
With the growth of the Internet, the world of information has opened up for everyone. Access to information used to be for the privileged few and as a businessperson you would need to pay a marketing research company to summarise important data for you. Now, much of that data is readily accessible on the web, and all you need is the ability to search for it and evaluate what you find. Information can give you huge insight into where opportunities exist. Many people feel intimidated by information or are too lazy to search for it. If you can learn to find and use effective research data, you can create a distinct advantage for yourself or your business.
To develop an effective research orientation you should:
- Learn to search. There is an art to searching, or using a search engine. There are ways of describing what you wish to find that can make your Internet search far more effective and targeted. (www.googleguide.com is a good place to start).
- Systemise your findings. It takes a bit of effort to store and label what you find but it can pay big dividends over time. You will be surprised by the number of times you wish to go back to something that you previously found on the Internet and if you have stored the reference or file in an easy to access location you will be able to benefit from all your previous research as you build new business ideas.