When starting a new business, look to catch a wave! I tell you how here:

Some years ago I found myself sitting on the North Shore of Hawaii watching twenty-five-foot breakers pound the shoreline. These waves started way off in the distance as tiny little ripples that would gain strength and speed as they raced to the beach. By the time they hit the reef near where I sat, the bone-crushing power was tremendous. I was mesmerized as I watched what I considered crazy surfers attempt to ride these beasts. Certainly, the exhilaration of riding one of these giants had to be beyond description, but a wipeout could literally mean death.

After this experience, I could not help but draw the parallel between the breakers on Sunset Beach and entrepreneurial efforts. One of the surefire recipes for success is to carefully watch the horizon and identify the ripples that are forming. If you get way out in front of an upcoming wave, the momentum generated will provide a sustained ride. And if the wave is big enough, just being in the right vicinity will generate enough power to propel you to your destination. If you catch it right, it will be the ride of a lifetime. If you catch it wrong, life can come crashing down around you. In both surfing and business, the key factor is the timing of getting on and off the wave. So, the question then becomes; how do I identify and time a wave? Like most skills, your ability to identify sustainable waves will grow with experience. My bet is that you already have a feel for it. Let’s look at an example.

In the year 2008, would you rather be starting a business in the cell phone sector or staffing a telemarketing center? Surely your gut will tell you that the telemarketing wave is slowing down and about to fizzle out. Look at the signs: do-not-call lists, litigation, annoyed people, and the movement away from home phone lines. With all the exciting possibilities and avenues with cell phones, however, there is no shortage of momentum. The wave is just starting to gather speed, and it will only get bigger.

CastleWave is riding the search engine wave. Anyone with a pulse is aware that the worldwide web and Google are generating this wave. Traditional, large companies are turning their focus to gaining a web presence, but their lack of understanding of how to successfully deploy their web initiatives has resulted in a huge disparity. CastleWave recognized this gap and is bridging it with the required expertise. The result? Large corporations are aggressively seeking our services. We recognized the wave and caught it!

I have successfully caught and ridden a number of waves in my career. Riding on top, there’s a feeling that nothing could possibly go wrong. There have also been times when I didn’t get set up for the wave and experienced the pain as huge breakers slammed me into the ocean floor.

In 2000 I learned the hard way that it was not a good time to build web-based companies. As the first wave of Internet business crashed, it didn’t matter how good your idea was, the riptide would suck it out to sea before it was even considered. Two years previously, however, an entrepreneur could get funding by scribbling a business plan on a napkin. PE ratios of publicly traded Internet stocks were insane, sometimes 200 percent! Most of these companies completely dried up and blew away when the bubble burst.

Let’s take another look at a contrasting example:

• Bad day to start an airline: September 12, 2001.
• Great day to start an anti-terrorist airline security business: September 12, 2001.

Same day, different waves.

Porter’s Points—Catch a Wave

• Read what business analysts are saying about significant future growth industries. Are there opportunities within your skill set or your interests?
• What major waves are occurring in areas of your expertise? What is everyone talking about? What are the hot topics online? Where do you see inefficiencies or weakness that you could fill?
• Give your best estimate of how long you think the wave will last, and assess if you have time to get on and ride for a while.

As you look to catch a wave, be sure to keep in mind your hobbies – next time we’ll learn about the pros and cons of incorporating your pastimes into your business ventures.