As the man drove around the corner, something sitting by the curb caught his eye. He pulled over and loaded the newer electric dryer into the back of his pickup with the rest of his scrap metal. His truck now full, he started making his way out of the neighborhood towards the scrap yard. A moment later, having spotted the dryer in his truck, I pulled over on the road and flagged the man down. I offered him $20 for the dryer on the spot, which he happily agreed to. Five minutes later I had the dryer apart and fixed. I then posted it on Craigslist and had it sold and delivered before dinner. It was another unexpected opportunity that ended up very rewarding.
As I sat at home last night thinking about what happened yesterday, I was reminded that not too long ago I was the man occasionally driving around filling up truck and trailer with scrap. I used to take appliances like the one I purchased yesterday straight to the scrap yard because I wasn’t prepared for the opportunities that kept coming before me. I came up with a list of five things that I’ve learned to help me prepare for opportunities when they come up.
1. Learn to see value where others do not. The first person saw a piece of junk that wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. The second person saw a piece of metal worth money. The third saw a very nice electric dryer that with a little love, could turn into hundreds of dollars in profit. (from the initial resale, and then from the next dryer traded in upon delivery and so on) I’ve been in all three of those positions. Do not accept other people’s valuations without careful consideration. Often times people do not value things as they should. The greater your understanding of where value lies, the more opportunity you will have to obtain it.
2. Prepare your mind for opportunities. I often shoot from the hip and trust my intuition when making business decisions. Sometimes that can be very helpful when making certain purchases. Overall however, I have suffered because I have not had a clear operating system setup. How much inventory should I have? How much should I pay for a dryer, or a washer? What if it’s condition is unknown or broken? What is it’s value if the motor is bad? There are so many variables that can go into our decisions that, left to process them all in a moment, we can easily make the wrong decision.
The bad feeling I had about the item? That was actually just an upset stomach. Use your intuition when making decisions, but the intuition should serve more as an override of a system that your mind put in place for how to operate the business. Sometimes there is but a second to make a decision while driving down the road, and a system in place will be the reason we are able to make the right choice.
3. Prepare your capacity for opportunities.
A. Capacity to transport. Many times when delivering appliances, I will arrive to find out that the person actually has multiple washers and dryers that they are wanting to get rid of. Early on I was almost never prepared for an unexpected windfall like that. Now we almost always bring the trailer on deliveries because we want to be prepared. It might mean driving a different vehicle to be able to handle the spontaneous transport of the items.
B. Capacity to store. Don’t allow your business to stagnate because your barn isn’t big enough. Build a bigger barn or rent out. Fortunately with the abundance of storage units, it’s easy to rent extra storage if needed.
C. Capacity to buy. When I go to garage sales, I bring enough money to buy everything at the sale. I always have access to extra cash when I go on deliveries in case the seller has other items. What happens if someone is liquidating 50 computers, or 10 cars or 100 appliances? Don’t miss an opportunity to make a great buy because you don’t have the money.
4. Get moving. My friend Chris always says that movement often trumps careful planning. There is a time for careful planning, but from my experience, people have a harder time moving than planning. The scrap metal guy found the dryer because he was driving around neighborhoods looking for metal. He was literally moving around looking for opportunities.
I was moving as well, driving back from another Craigslist pick up. It’s amazing how many more opportunities you will find if you are just willing to move. Just get moving, you can always alter your path or trajectory down the road as you learn and you come across new opportunities.
5. Be flexible. Many opportunities are missed because they don’t look the way we want them to. We have a fairytale ideal of what our work, business and life are going to look like. An opportunity is an opportunity, regardless of what it looks like.
In the past month and a half I’ve had my best week and my best month ever. Things are going very well, but also have been very busy. I apologize for not posting more. I hope you all are doing well and I’d love to hear updates from you on how things have been going. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this post.