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Manifest Destiny

You may have it all planned out, but little surprises can bring big successes.

When asked how to best expand a business, most entrepreneurs will tell you their greatest successes came from unexpected and unplanned events that arose while they built their companies. While their pre-designed strategies acted as cornerstones for their businesses, it was the random incidents, which initially seemed like diversions, that ended up producing the most amazing outcomes. A meeting they decided to attend at the last minute or a customer using their product in a new way catapulted their businesses to another level.

We readily acknowledge that being an entrepreneur is about the challenge of doing things in our own unique way. Sometimes, however, it's difficult for us to shift gears and redirect our actions when unanticipated opportunities pre-sent themselves. Having dedicated so much time and so many resources to our current strategy, we become emotionally invested in the world we've created. We may even choose to stay the course to reassure ourselves that our business approach is focused.

Predicting the outcome of your actions is like forecasting the weather: Usually, you can be fairly certain about your predictions, but it's the wild storms that are the hardest to foresee and the most powerful. Serendipity and luck favor people who embrace unexpected opportunities. Here's how to take control of your business's future:

  1. Own your self-perception. As entrepreneurs, we want to be viewed as being at the top of our game. When we share our strategies with our colleagues, we fear that any change in plans may appear as a weakness. Rather than worrying about what others might think, capitalize on the chance to grow your business in a new direction by taking advantage of unexpected opportunities.
  2. Recognize that diversions don't have to be dramatic. Success develops from continually discovering and testing new business approaches. Diverting from an established plan can be overwhelming. Remember, taking risks is at the core of every entrepreneurial venture. You can test new waters and still follow your planned business strategy. When a diversion presents itself, find a way to test it out using your current resources. Don't be afraid to ask others for help or spend a little time "off the clock" on a potential bonanza.
  3. Make the search for unpredictable opportunities part of everyday conversations. If someone asks how your business is doing, don't try to impress them with your progress or bemoan your challenges. Rather, share your curiosity about new ways to achieve even greater success. Being open to different kinds of suggestions will inspire people to offer unique strategies for achieving feats that go beyond your original expectations.
  4. Don't compare yourself to others. As entrepreneurs, we don't rely on those who come before us to validate our path in life. Each of our businesses and environments are unique. Challenge yourself by embracing the diversions that sprout from your original business plan. Use your analytical and creative skills to search beyond the typical methods of conducting business and build a path to unanticipated benefits.

Take advantage of the opportunities these random events may bring. Be patient and be appreciative of any results you achieve. Your business will naturally modify itself to accommodate these new, profitable expansions.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him atromanus@kickstartguy.com.

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This article was originally published in the September 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Manifest Destiny.

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