02 Aug How to Spot Game Changing Business Opportunities That Others Miss
Western Union Boss William Orton Was Offered The Telephone Patent For $100,000. He Said “No” Because He Saw It As a Novelty. But Just A Few Years Later He Offered Alexander Graham Bell $25 Million. What Can We Learn From Orton’s Mis-Read?
You may have a great idea or a strong business.
But you need the right business opportunities to get to where you need to go.
That’s the tough part. So many businesses fail because they didn’t grasp the right opportunity at the right time.
Many business owners don’t even see the business opportunities that are right in front of them.
I’m going to help you to get to a place where you can spot these opportunities. But first, let’s look at a story about somebody who missed his chance.
Western Union and the Telephone
Everybody knows the name Alexander Graham Bell.
The inventor of the telephone brought about a complete change in the way that society works. The phone offered instant verbal communication in a world that still relied on postage and telegraphs.
It was a revolution.
Bell and his partners, Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Greene Hubbard, saw the potential. So, they set course for Western Union to offer them the full patent to their new invention.
At the time Western Union operated one of the largest telegraph systems in the world. In fact, they were the innovators of the transcontinental telegraph. That made them the major player in the communications sector.
Bell and his partners asked for $100,000 for the patent to their new invention.
And Western Union boss William Orton said no. In his mind, the telephone was little more than a novelty that would never replace telegraphs.
We all know how wrong he turned out to be.
A few years later, Orton lamented on one of the great business opportunities that he let slip away. He even told colleagues that he would consider a price of $25 million as a bargain for the patent rights.
As for Bell and his partners?
They created Bell Telephone and made millions from their invention. The company also gave rise to a number of “Baby Bells”, such as Verizon and AT&T.
You may recognise these companies as some of today’s leaders in the telephone sector.
Edison and the Ticker Tape Machine
Here’s an interesting postscript to that telephone story.
Western Union eventually hired Thomas Edison to make some small “improvements” to Bell’s telephone. Their aim was to create a version that they could patent for themselves.
Bell caught wind of this and took the issue to the courts, where he won handily.
But another story involving Edison sheds even more on how easy it is to miss game changing business opportunities.
During the late 1800s, Edison made a number of improvements to the traditional stock ticker machine. Eventually, his redesign would lead to a Wall Street revolution.
Like the telephone, Edison’s ticker tape machine allowed for faster communication of information.
And like Bell, Edison decided to sell the patent. He prepared to meet the president of Westinghouse to negotiate terms.
Edison was initially going to ask for £5,000 for his machine. But his wife convinced him to hold off on setting a price himself. Instead, he should let the company make an offer.
And that’s exactly what he did.
He asked Westinghouse to make him an offer. They came back with a figure of £10,000.
Edison almost choked when he heard that offer. Here he was, about to make double the amount that he’d have asked for.
But the Westinghouse president took that cough as a sign of reluctance. Before Edison could accept the first offer, the president offered him £20,000.
Of course, Edison said yes.
The pair shook hands and sealed the deal.
That’s when the Westinghouse president arrogantly told Edison that he would have offered £50,000.
Edison turned, smiled, and said: “I would have taken £5,000.”
Spotting the Game Changing Business Opportunities
With the help of his wife, Edison took the opportunity to make more from his work.
In the case of Bell, Western Union missed out on one of the greatest business opportunities of the century.
Now, you need to know how to ensure that no business opportunities pass you by. Here are my tips.
Tip #1 – Surrender Your Beliefs
How things are now is not how they will always be.
Just look at the Bell story for an example of that. Western Union thought the telegraph would last forever. They weren’t open to accepting the telephone as the revolutionary idea that it was, which meant that they missed out.
They were essentially operating with a programmed thought pattern.
You need to do the opposite. Surrender your beliefs about what works and what doesn’t so that you can see things differently. Use meditation and journaling to transcend your rational mind.
In doing so, you may come up with ideas that could revolutionise an entire industry. Or, you may see the potential in other people’s ideas that everybody else has missed.
Turn things upside down and turn them around. Pull them apart and put them back together again. Do what you have to in order to surrender your beliefs about what works.
That’s how you open your mind to new business opportunities.
Tip #2 – Embrace Randomness
Opportunities are all around you.
But you may not spot them because you’re not putting yourself into positions where they can find you.
I always recommend embracing randomness to my clients. Get out and meet new people. Visit places that you’ve never been to before.
All of these things expose you to people and cultures that you’ve never encountered before.
And there’s always the possibility that one of those things could present a new opportunity to you.
The Final Word
Businesspeople from all over the world have looked back on the opportunities that they missed.
That’s what William Orton did after missing out on Bell’s telephone. In the end, he would have paid 250 times as much as Bell asked for to get his hands on that patent.
Don’t allow opportunities to pass you by. Open your mind to new possibilities and consider every idea or offer that comes your way. Put yourself in positions where opportunities find you, rather than waiting at home and hoping something will happen.
That’s how you spot the opportunities that other people miss.
And there’s so much more that you can learn about finding opportunities and growing your business. And it all starts with a business review.
During the 2-Hour Business Review Session, my aim will be to help you see hidden opportunities in your business. During the session we can discuss any aspect of your business in which you would like support, such as:
- Growth Strategies
- Sales and Distribution
- Pricing and Packaging
- Merger/Sale, Capital Raising, IPO
After 35+ years working with small and large businesses, buying, selling and growing them across a range of sectors, I can work with you on any level or area.
And it all starts with a no-obligation 2-Hour Business Review Session.