Give yourself the freedom to look for opportunity around every corner

My life thus far has brought me many gifts, including good health, a fantastic wife, three incredible kids and a successful business that I got to start and grow with one of my best friends. Yet one of the greatest gifts provided to me is my willingness to be open to opportunities. Fortunately, I believe everyone can develop this skill.

To start, you need a world view that opportunities are everywhere. If you believe that, you need to embrace exploring opportunities. And finally, you must develop the senses to see and judge those opportunities that are worth going after.

Often, these will be incremental opportunities to improve yourself or your company. Over time, however, they may become more profound, and perhaps even life changing. Find time to leave your comfort zone and observe and listen. Youth is always testing and exploring, so stay young and see what’s out there.

  • Volunteer at an organization that resonates with whatever is important to you. You will meet people with many different perspectives and ideas. For me, it meant meeting really smart people with more experience who eventually joined our board of advisers at Main Street Gourmet, which led to great ideas to grow our company.
  • Go to lunch with people you have never met. My partner, Steve Marks, and I did this many years ago at a suggestion from our attorney at the time. The lunch led to an introduction to the product development team at a small natural food chain in Colorado. We eventually got the business. Then that company got bought by Whole Foods, and we got that business. Then people we had relationships with at Whole Foods took other jobs and we became suppliers for them —all from one lunch.
  • Ask about your employees’ passions. Our HR leader, Kelly Loebick-Fracella, had a passion for helping refugees. That led to exploring an opportunity to work with the International Institute of Akron, which led to finding a great resource for incredible employees to help us get better and grow.
  • “See” and judge the opportunities. This final step seems simple but may be the most difficult. It takes developing self-awareness and doing the hard work to know yourself and your team. This works the same as when you buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car everywhere. Through self-awareness, when a prospect presents itself, it will be obvious that it’s one you should pursue. When a customer asked us to work with it to match a product it was making at each restaurant to help save on labor and create consistency, we saw the opportunity and dug in. Personally, what I discovered is creating custom products was something that I loved and our team excelled at. Successfully producing this product led to a focus on a new business strategy that pushed us forward to create a business that has grown over four times since.

The best part about seeing opportunities everywhere is that if one doesn’t work out, just look around again.

Harvey Nelson is co-founder at Main Street Gourmet