How to Prevent Ideas and Opportunities From Falling Through The Cracks

By SmartBrief Insights Contributor Baron C. Hanson

Today, important business news, potential relationships, great ideas, and new opportunities fly at us –– or right by us –– at a considerable speed and volume.

Be it a fresh news story or white paper, plum event invitation, potentially huge transaction, brilliant new hire or critical vendor negotiation, all ideas and opportunities first require intersection, interaction, and inspection if they are to progress into a tangible relationship.

During the last few years, our Turnaround Management practice area has witnessed small and middle-market business clients both fail and succeed at taking the fundamental steps required to ensure viable ideas and opportunities do not fall through the cracks. Whereas the economy was once a legitimate factor, deflated motivation and fragmented execution are now the true culprits of fumbled opportunities.

Akin to returning a Wimbledon serve, hitting a World Series pitch, or landing firmly upon an Augusta National green, keeping one’s eye intensely focused on the ball under pressure is a tangible imperative required for competing and succeeding.

So it is with athletes at the top of their game that business owners and executive directors must also gather, analyze, and interpret fast-paced data into skillful action more quickly than ever before, if they are to process critical distinctions between opportunities and fallacies on the job.

Here are four ways to prevent viable opportunities from falling to the wayside or ending up permanently on ice:

Never, ever, EVER leave the scene of a viable idea or opportunity without gathering actionable data and follow-up information first.

Obviously leaders and crew members cannot place an important phone call, mail a hand-written letter, perfectly draft a proposal, or deliver a press release to the appropriate editor in time without modern, mobile contact information.

However, the most overlooked follow-up information we see are event dates, materials deadlines, early registration periods, etc. Critical information not gathered also fails to be well distributed to your teams.

Delegate each opportunity though to a roundtable of trusted partners and advisers:

Be it a quick phone call to a qualified specialist, a brief meeting with your special situations group, or the trusted council of staff, internally sharing granular opportunity details with two or more people is wildly more effective than going it alone. In special ops missions, having a back up is fundamental logic. Three boats are actually two. Two weapons are one. One man is none.

We’ve all heard of the “buddy system.” Ideas and opportunities shared with one or more advisors or staff create a tangible group of proactive event, topic, and task awareness that you and your team can strategically revisit.

3) DOCUMENT EVERYTHING: Convert viable opportunities by delivering presentations and responses in writing:

How do you get into a top college or graduate school, pitch and close a major client, be editorially featured in the Wall Street Journal, or get appointed or elected into public office? Written words on actual paper, reviewed then stored in official file cabinets. Even though modernity rules today, our country is what it is today because of hand-written letters, the Pony Express, and eventually the Federal mailing system (Prof. John Stilgoe).

This may sound elementary, but the critical step of actually submitting written materials is where ideas and opportunities fail to be converted most. In today’s fast-paced PDA world, motivation can go cold and granular effort can become fragmented if actual ink is not delivered to second or third parties for official consideration and dissemination.

4) GO THE EXTRA MILE: Be willing to work longer hours and go for as many miles as it takes:

90% of your life and career is about showing up and participating in person. The remaining 20% is the longer hours, passionate vision and personal effort required to go 110% of the distance required.

Here is an impressive @NYTimes article by Michael J. De La Merced about a humbling public servant and former rugby teammate of mine, Mr. David N. Miller. A Goldman Sachs investment banker now with the US Treasury Department’s TARP recovery program, Miller’s razor sharp attitude and 110% work ethic offer exceptional evidence for embracing ideas and opportunity with vigor.

The fundamental logic of examining each and every opportunity is a three-fold process:

1) Allow no opportunistic stone to go unturned –– assemble a team.

2) Gather all relevant data and evidence –– ensure the team leader responds in writing.

3) Relentlessly examine all potential risk, loss and plan B scenarios and stay the course 110% –– as a group.

If converting every viable opportunity seems too mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive for comfort, that’s because it is. Preventing competitors from gaining strategic advantage requires proactive planning, consistent teamwork and relentless execution. This is why SEAL, Beret, Ranger and Delta training are so fascinating to learn about.

Our firm has witnessed considerable ideas and opportunities lost due to leaders failing to drill down on the fine print required to reach key opinion leaders, submit written materials or capitalize on opportunities. Competitors were beating them to the transaction table, giving the keynote address instead, or earning prime media first. Ouch.

One fundamental RedBaron policy recommendation that has proved helpful to small business owners, middle-market CEOs, and executive directors is to run new ideas and opportunities through a newly formed roundtable or “special situations group,” instead of chaotically going it alone –– or designing the business or association agenda around ones lifestyle.

The key take-away here is to surround yourself with an honest team –– and communicate openly with them –– so you can remain open to new ideas, research, and relationships. The results are taking charge of more viable new opportunities as opposed to seeing them fall through the cracks.

Baron Hanson is the principal and lead consultant of RedBaron Consulting, based in Charleston, S.C., and Washington D.C. Hanson has been strategically re-branding and turning around small businesses, organizations ($1MM-$15MM), and non-profits for over 20 years.

Now age 40, the retired Rugby player and 2x Harvard graduate has earned the 1st, 3rd, and 4th "most-clicked" positions among dozens of the nation's top consultants, writers, and association leadership professionals at SmartBrief, Inc., a media company based in the nation's capitol.

SmartBrief is a leading online publication comprised of senior editors from astute journalism backgrounds that hand-pick only the best articles for national and international publication throughout their editorial network. The very best articles are then published and judged virally via readership popularity and "page view" analytics.

Hanson credits his centrist style of "tough love" consulting and writing success with a combination of simplified data conveyance, team-oriented motivation, and a "man-up" workplace attitude that encourages small business owners and crews throughout the Southeast + United States to proactively challenge themselves –– especially in rural, reactive, or receding industry regions.

Follow the firm on Twitter at @redbaronUSA, or visit

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