Some people seem to just attract opportunities. Others work hard to be opportunity generators. In either case, you have to recognize the opportunity when it comes or it will pass you by. That doesn't mean you need to jump on every opportunity that comes your way. Many try this approach only to find out they don't have the energy or resources to follow through on all those opportunities. The net result is you'll never know which opportunities were actually viable and potentially, you'll create a reputation for poor follow through.

Opportunities are as personal as a suit of clothes. Many look good on the rack, but not so much when you actually try them on. Here are some of the signs I look for to make sure an opportunity is a good fit.

1. It sparks ideas.

Some opportunities are a good idea, but the ones that are worthwhile seem to be a source of ideas. Many opportunities are the beginning of something that will go through many changes and iterations. Single concepts with stringent limits are difficult to manage through the growth process. The more you try and prove the concept, the more new ideas you'll need to adjust to a winning plan. If the opportunity only works one way, let it go.

2. It fits core values.

I am meticulous about making sure everything I do is consistent with my core values. A great opportunity can provide me growth, but it should not require me to change who I am at the core. Establish litmus tests for each of your values and make sure the opportunity fits them all, otherwise it's probably only great for someone else.

3. It provides energy.

I am pitched new opportunities all the time. Sometimes they sound good enough to take a few meetings. If I find myself feeling tired from the meetings or worse, bored, I know it's a no-go. A great opportunity makes me feel alert and energetic. It makes me wake up earlier and speeds up my productivity. The initial energy is usually necessary to get things moving at the start.

4. It carries its own momentum.

Great opportunities almost have a life of their own. When a viable opportunity comes my way, I usually test it by lightly engaging. If it requires more effort than I am willing to risk, then it will likely die out. In that case, it likely wasn't worth my energy in the first place. But if it seems to move forward with little taps of effort from me, then I know it shows promise and I will increase my engagement. This isn't necessarily a long process, but it is very deliberate.

5. People discuss it legitimately.

I am surrounded by entrepreneurs who love to ideate, and see the potential in everything. That atmosphere makes for lots fun bar conversations, but it can also raise the frustration for people who enact some of the out there ideas that have little basis in reality. I know an opportunity has true merit when the discussion moves from all the reasons an idea will work to discussing all the reasons it won't work. Great business models are built by brutally identifying the obstacles and creatively removing them.

Published on: Dec 10, 2014