An old friend of mine once saw an opportunity where no-one else did, jumped at it, and made business history. Opportunities are all around us…
One of my favourite examples, apart from the fabulous Tipp-ex example (no longer relevant of course), is the speedometer conversion kit.
When Australia and a number of other countries went metric in 1972, my friend Harry (then a nuclear physicist) had an idea. How were drivers going to be able to convert miles to kilometres in a split second?
Harry had this idea while on a holiday in Europe driving a dual speedometer vehicle from Britain to France.
The car he was driving had a long speedometer with mp/h on top and km/h on the bottom. As he was driving along he thought about the pending conversion to metric in Australia and the problem this would cause motorists. One day the speed sign would say 35 (mph) and the next day 60 (kmh), yet the imperial speedo did not change – “uh oh, 60 what?”.
I know what you are thinking – surely General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, all the Japanese manufacturers, would have thought of this business opportunity – the potential market for this in the countries going metric amounted to tens of millions of dollars.
But what an interesting situation – no-one in any of these global companies did. So back to Harry…
Harry returned to Australia, where he was working at Caulfield Institute as a physics lecturer – but in his spare time he continued his thinking and started designing.
The next challenge was marketing and distribution. The appropriate outlets seemed obvious – auto accessory distributors. So Harry went confidently to the major auto accessory companies with his sample; they laughed. “Silly man, too hard, too many models – go back to teaching!”
But Harry is not one to give up easily – in fact I can say he does not give up.
So Harry found a small distribution company for camping equipment who liked the idea and thought they would give this young guy a chance – great.
He then designed a series of models to suit cars already on the road and his distributor started selling. Harry quickly turned from nuclear physicist earning $3065 a year (1971) to earning $27,000 a week – yes you read correctly! In today’s terms that can be multiplied by 15, which equals $405,000 a week!
General Motors, Chrysler and Ford in Canada then approached Harry directly to make these products as genuine spare parts for all their vehicles in 1975.
Ah – finally the penny had dropped in the big companies and by now Harry was looking very OK.
I have to say Harry’s business life did not stop there. In 1979 he brought the first commercial video games and computers in to Australia – Atari. And in 1982 his new company Futuretronics was in that year listed as the fasted growing company up to that point in Australian history – in one year his business grew from $70,000 turnover to $40 million.
Yes, Harry is still around and still running a business in games accessories that caters to teenagers.
Opportunities are all around us.
To read more Marcia Griffin blogs, click here.
High Heeled Success is Marcia Griffin’s latest book, and is a frank account of building a business from a solitary sales person to a multi-million dollar business with 4700 sales consultants around Australia and New Zealand. It recounts successes and failures along the way and was written to inspire entrepreneurs-particularly women to triumph in business.