Entrepreneurs See Opportunity in Bad News

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We have had a lot of negative information in the news lately, with the foreclosure problems, bank solvency and the economic slowdown. This spate of bad news got me thinking about how successful entrepreneurs often see negative information differently from the rest of us. They often see opportunities in negative news.

For instance, several entrepreneurs responded to news about global warming to see an opportunity for mining for minerals in the arctic, which are becoming more accessible due to the melting of the polar ice cap. There were entrepreneurs who capitalized on the increased demand for the American flag after 9/11 by selling products with the American flag on them. And there are entrepreneurs who have responded to the foreclosure crisis by providing services inspecting and cleaning up foreclosed homes for the banks that now own them.

My point is not that the negative news isn’t bad. It is.

But even bad events bring opportunity. The fact that some successful entrepreneurs hear the bad news and think about the opportunities that such news creates, when most people think about the bad outcomes in bad news, is instructive. It points out something about a way of thinking that successful entrepreneurs seem to have.

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About the Author: Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of seven books, including Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By and Finding Fertile Ground: Identifying Extraordinary Opportunities for New Ventures

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Scott Shane Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of nine books, including Fool's Gold: The Truth Behind Angel Investing in America ; Illusions of Entrepreneurship: and The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By.

10 Reactions
  1. It always amazes me how many people are innovative thinkers. Like the old saying; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Entrepreneurs seem to be good at making “lemonade”!

  2. You’re right, every crisis does bring more opportunities. Whether it’s the housing crisis or banks failing or higher food prices, some people will capitalize on circumstances to provide useful products and services and make their own fortunes. That’s just the cycle of it all, I guess. Some people fail, while other prosper. And then the tables turn. And turn again. It’s best to look at bad news as something to learn from and as an opportunity to benefit your own life (as long as it doesn’t outright hurt anyone else, of course).

  3. I think this is a critical observation you’ve made, Scott. It hits on several personality traits.

    (1) Problem solving — A true entrepreneur is a problem-solver. Someone who sees everything as a problem that can be remedied, and the question is: can I create the right remedy to solve the problem or meet an unfilled need?

    (2) Optimism — A true entrepreneur is a glass-half-full person. You have to be. Otherwise, all the obstacles facing you in any business will cause you to give up way too soon.

    (3) Trend spotting — A true entrepreneur has his/her ear close to the ground and listens to those little things that signal trends. Entrepreneurs jump on opportunities early before others catch on. Or they create a unique approach to an established business to reflect some small need that isn’t met or isn’t being met properly.

  4. I think entrepreneurs don’t “feel” macroeconomic developments until they become microeconomic – meaning they take a direct hit. But even then, after the initial jolt, the entrepreneurial spirit kicks in and they begin thinking what kinds of lemonade and chicken salad they can make out of the lemons….and chicken salad…..

  5. Tanya Middleton

    I agree, many people are able to find the silver linings of negative situations. I think economic strife also shifts responsibilty from one industry to another. Small businesses are given opprotunities to make an extrodinary contribution to the economy. I’m also intrigued by the way such shifts affect the workforce, just think of rosie the riviter, would such opprotunities have risen for women not we had been in such dyer straights. There is also a large insurgence of larger companies endorsing or contributing to smaller businesses, which is why I’m really happy to share some info with any small business owners or developers. I actually work with Microsoft, and right now I’m really excited to spread the word about the “Vision to Venture” tour they’re having between April and May, which will consist of five live events. Featured speaker, John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach, award-winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide.as well as many other speakers offering industry tips. Our first event was momentous and we hope to continue on with our success. You can see more and register at http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/v2v/ so let me know what you think! And if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them 

  6. Mark Nieuwenhuizen

    Where there is crisis, big or small, there is a need of some kind. Where there is a need, there’s a market. An innovative (not just any) entrepreneur will recognize that.

  7. You are absolutely right entrepreneurs have the amazing ability to change and adapt quickly

  8. Martin Lindeskog

    The Americans are very good at catching on new opportunities during hard times. It is a reason why the United States of America is called the Land of Opportunity.

  9. My company is 100% focused on making it easier to be an entrepreneur – we believe small businesses are the backbone of our country. We are launching our new on-demand Software as a Service (SaaS) platform — PaySimple 2.0 — that enables small businesses to bill, collect, and manage their customer payments under one user-friendly system. If you or anyone reading this is interested in reviewing the product prior to the press launch in May please contact me at mfb@paysimple.com and I would be glad to set you up with a review account.


  10. Many successful companies where created from the ashes of a slow or pour economy. Today this is more true than ever, the new economy is pushing companies and entrepreneurs to be more innovative. For myself I started a blog called Creating Yourself at the Top which discuss these matters.