“Gaps” – or business prospects – challenge what entrepreneurs offer the market and how they offer it. This makes it important to assist them to identify the right gap before they start a business, as well as continue to test its ongoing relevance as their SME grows, says Shawn Theunissen, head of CSR at Growthpoint Properties and Property Point (Growthpoint Properties’ enterprise development programme), in this month’s SmartProcurement.
Each time someone expresses a need that is not being met, a new “gap” reveals itself in the market – occasionally providing an entrepreneurial individual with the perfect opportunity to start their own business.
“While gaps can range from a need for new products or technology to requiring different services to those currently available, not all gaps will go on to sustain viable businesses,” says Theunissen. “This makes it critical for entrepreneurs to investigate perceived gaps thoroughly – from the resources required to meet the need all the way through to quantifying market appetite for the product or service.”
Gaps are identified by listening to the market and responding to it. This means that you need to do research – even if this is informal or accidental.
“Speak to the people who will potentially become your customers. Start off identifying who you will be dealing with and what their needs are. Whilst it is often easy to establish the usual suspects (or traditional clients), make a point of finding the unusual suspects too – possible new markets for your goods and/or services.”
Once you have identified who the main consumers and suppliers are, and who is connected to whom, you must find out how their needs both are and are not being met – and why. “This will give you an indication about whether your idea is viable and will work or not,” he explains.
When you have identified your opportunity, it is important to make sure your idea will actually work before you go ahead and create a business around it.
“To do this, link what you have discovered through your research with what you want to do – and conceptualise your idea. Ask yourself what your core business will be, and how you can fill the gap you have spotted. Outline your answers on paper. Check that they speak to the needs you first identified,” says Theunissen.
Before charging ahead and starting a business based on your findings, take your answers back to the individuals who originally helped you and ask them for their feedback. If you can subsequently show that there is a market for you, it is time to start your business.
Theunissen cautions that, while it is one thing finding your business’ gap, it is equally important to maintain your position in the market by continually testing its relevance, as well as looking for new opportunities.
“One of the best ways to do this is by strengthening your relationships with existing clients and then to keep listening to them. Remember that needs change. Only by communicating with the market constantly – listening and responding – will you be able to ensure that what you are offering is still relevant and necessary.”
To stay ahead in your sector then, always keep thinking beyond your immediate context. “Gaps are about ideas and possibilities. To find new ones, actively seek out a cross-pollination of ideas between seemingly different industries. This will enable you to expand your understanding whilst broadening your own market at the same time,” concludes Theunissen.
Contact Property Point for more info on uncovering and analysing business gaps.