To Chase or Not to Chase: “The Shiny Object Conundrum”

Home Blog To Chase or Not to Chase: “The Shiny Object Conundrum”

Originally featured in “VGM Playbook: Growing Your Business in Today's Environment," Mike Isaacson, Senior VP of Business Development of VGM & Associates, discusses what five questions to ask yourself before you spend your personal, professional, or business capital on pursuing the “next big thing” to ensure you’re on the right path.

As business owners and/or leaders, you are pulled in many different directions and wear multiple hats on a daily basis. It is always exciting to look at new opportunities, both in times of growth and prosperity as well as in times of challenge and decline. When things are going well, we have the convenience to look for that new product, business line, etc. Similarly, but for different reasons, when things are stagnant or even in decline, looking for new revenue streams and opportunities can bring enthusiasm and optimism into the company. In both cases, this may be the perfect time to look…or not.

Before you spend your personal, professional, or business capital on pursuing the “next big thing,” ask yourself these five questions to ensure you’re on the right path.

1. Does This Fit Into Our Strategic Plan Short/Long-Term?

The Strategic Plan…remember that document? That’s the focused look at the business you completed along with your team that set the foundation for the next year, three years, or five years. This document, unfortunately, tends to start with a lot of promise and focus, and many times ends the year forgotten, collecting dust on a shelf. If this describes your plan, now would be a great time to pull it down, dust it off, and see if this new endeavor fits the direction you intended to go.

A review is in order as well for those that live and die with the strategic plan and see it as a living, breathing document. This will ensure that, if nothing else, you have the bandwidth to pursue and possibly add to your current book of business.

2. Does This Opportunity Fall Within Our Scope?

“Mission creep” is a real thing, and like the Sirens in the Odyssey (thank you, high school English teacher), have led many an organization to their death. Losing focus on who you are and what it is you are the best at can be devastating to a business. Straying too far from our core business or model can create confusion both within a company, but more importantly, with your consumer base.

In order to combat this, you must have a strong handle on your strengths, your market differentiation, and your core competencies. If this new opportunity falls within these markers…take a look. Or, if you have already made the strategic position to move into a different or new direction, you should have already completed that assessment and strategic planning.

3. Am I Bored?

I know, this sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. If you have been in business for a while, whether it’s yours or the one you are working for, lethargy can kick in. After all, you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a penchant for creativity. When you feel restless or if your day-to-day has become mundane, redundant, or even monotonous, new ventures can be just the excitement you need to kick-start your creativity and passion.

While not ALL bad, you have to be careful, honest with yourself, and assess the opportunity through this lens. It very well may be a great opportunity and work to support your need for motivation, but be sure that it’s not just your boredom-colored glasses making it look like a better business opportunity than it actually is. 

Perhaps the bigger question you should be asking yourself is, “Is our current offering still relevant?” The concern is that if you are bored with your product or offering, your customer or the market may be as well. A better use of your creativity may be to re-image, re-fresh, and re-brand your offering to compete in today’s market.

4. Am I Interested…or Panicking?

The most challenging time to make business decisions is when you have to. Sound counterintuitive? Not really. 

The P&Ls are looking good, staffing is solid, your teams are functioning at a high level, and the sun has been shining every day for a year. Someone pitches you a new product or business idea and you have the time to review, evaluate, and conduct due diligence in a calm and unemotional way. After all, take it or leave it, you are all good. OR…

This is the sixth month of declining revenues. Your market share is slipping. Salespeople are jumping ship left and right. And you haven’t seen the sun in a year and a half. You are struggling to find that “easy button,” the idea that will right the ship and clear the skies. Someone pitches you an idea, looks good on the surface, so you grasp at it like the life preserver you’ve been hoping for. There is no “leave it” in your mind, so you take it.

See what I mean? Two very different scenarios will play out as a result. So, ask yourself, am I interested or am I panicking—do I HAVE to make this decision?

5. What Is the Market Potential?

There are a few follow-up questions with this one:

  • Is this being done already?
  • Is there room for another player?
  • What is our differentiator?

You could have an amazing idea, but without market potential or a key differentiator, it may need to visit the recycling bin. And by recycling bin, I mean it just might need some more work. Don’t trash it—just keep working on it. Do your due diligence, look at market data, make sure your revenue potential supports growth, and research the competition.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well of course. Why would anybody chase a shiny object at the risk of their business?” If you have experienced nothing but success thus far, then I applaud you and look forward to learning more. However, each and every one of us has, or at some point will, go down that rabbit hole, chasing the shiny object only to find that, at best, we’ve wasted a lot of time and resources—or at worst, done irreparable damage to our business.

Get Growing

You should always be on the lookout for great opportunities—for growth and expansion. You must, however, do so with both eyes open and with a full understanding of company and personal motivation. Start first by asking yourself questions and conducting due diligence from a place of awareness. By doing so, you can eliminate the number of “shiny objects” and truly home in on the real opportunities. Now, go brush off that Strategic Plan and get growing.


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