Finding opportunities by solving the problems of tomorrow today

Moving to a digital world feels unnatural. We can answer any question and have whatever we can think about at our fingertips, often delivered to our doorstep at a moment’s notice. There is limited search (hunt) for products or services, no chance to think things through before making a purchase as you can go from “want” to “buy” in a second, and limited appreciation about how much we have spent as our cards are already connected to our user profiles.

How can a businessperson plan in a world that thinks in seconds and is inundated with data and choice? There are two categories of businesspersons: intrapreneurs, typically a manager within a company who promotes innovative product development and marketing, and entrepreneurs, a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. Entrepreneurs are also known as visionaries, dreamers, risk takers, or masochists, depending on the state of their venture. Their common characteristic is that they are problem solvers, typically for things that will arise down the line rather than things happening right now (which is what firefighting or management is all about).

Intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs should split time into three chunks: 10 years plus (macro view), 5 years (medium term view), and 1 year (immediate view).

  • We have a “fluffy” plan or targets for where we want to be in 10 years’ time, taking into consideration how the economy is changing (e.g. GDP composition, demographics, the environment, geopolitics, etc) knowing that there are various curveballs that will set us off-course. In essence, this relates to the general direction of the economy and society.
  • We then set targets for where we want/need to be in the midterm, i.e. in five years, to ensure that we have firm milestones on our way to achieve the 10-year plan. These targets need to be considered by taking onboard regulations, policy, innovation, etc and life (e.g. marriage, kids, illness, etc). We tend to live our lives in cycles of 3-5 years, e.g. relationships, work, hobbies, etc, so it’s good to ensure that these cycles (or rather their outcomes) form part of a longer super cycle.
  • Finally, there are all the things we need to do on a day-to-day basis so that we achieve our yearly goals. These are there to keep us focused and ensure that we are on track to achieve our five-year targets. This is where most people get lost or distracted; they deal with salaries, titles at work, fashion, news, etc. You need to stay focused or else the “daily stressors” will hold you back by getting you distracted.

Set out your plan by splitting into these three timeframes and things will begin to fall into place. You will be able to identify where opportunities and risks lie, as well as set specific targets that can help keep you focused.

In terms of actionable advice on setting up your business: (i) wake up before 05:00, visualise, exercise, and eat well, (ii) business is a team sport, so you need stamina, a plan, commitment, and be open to ask for help, (iii) don’t commit more than €1,000 to launch and test your business, so that you have flexibility to adjust and adapt.