Entrepreneurs and businesspeople always have their eye out for undiscovered opportunity. And those with sharp eyes know that inspiration can come from surprising places. After all, Airbnb came from a desire to defray the cost of rent. The idea for the structure of FedEx was first expressed in a college paper.

When YPO member Dinesh Dhamija attended an event at Harvard Business School in the 1990s, he learned that several individual companies had valuations larger than the economies of entire countries. These companies were all built around one thing - the Internet.

Dhamija was already a successful businessman. He started a small travel kiosk in a London Underground station and built it into a thriving brick and mortar travel agency named Flightbookers, with locations all over Europe. But after this experience at Harvard, he returned to London determined to turn Flightbookers into an Internet company.

So Flightbookers became Ebookers.com, the first online booking service in the United Kingdom. In only five years, it grew to over $1 billion in sales. Dhamija didn’t expect to change his business, but he recognized the opportunity new technology presented and adjusted his company to meet it.

On an episode of my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Dhamija shared some advice on how to recognize opportunity when it presents itself:

1. Look for inspiration everywhere.

Dhamija hardly could have imagined that his annual retreat to Harvard would lead to a total transformation of his company. But he was open to inspiration where it struck and seized upon the opportunity he saw. Dhamija also advises being a mentor. He believes people who are younger or at different points in their careers have a great deal to offer even the most seasoned entrepreneur.

2. Don’t be afraid to be a pioneer.

When Dhamija started Ebookers.com, it was the first Internet travel-booking site in Europe. At the time, booking travel online was something of a novel idea, but Dhamija saw the potential. He underwent a radical shift in business and became an industry pioneer. Taking a business in a new direction requires courage. And sometimes, if you don’t do it, your business could get left behind.

3. Even in a tech company, it’s not all about the tech.

No matter how advanced the technology, a business cannot succeed on tech alone. For Dhamija, it was his human relationships in that allowed him to get his technology business off the ground. Ultimately, it’s about relationships and knowledge, not the technology.

4. Recognize your limits.

When Dhamija shifted his business onto the Internet, he was the only travel business in Europe to do so. It gave him access to a huge market and great opportunity for growth. But after several years of success, several American companies started to invest in the European market. These companies had huge marketing budgets with which Ebookers.com simply could not compete, and Dhamija again understood what the future would hold. So to maximize his outcome, Dhamija sold his company, closing a hugely successful company lifecycle.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Mar 16, 2018
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