I have a friend named Mike, who has a daughter. Mike’s daughter recently participated in a dance competition at Rowan University in New Jersey. During a lull in one of the performances, Mike spent some time learning about Rowan University.
Up until 1992, Rowan University was known as Glassboro State College. That’s when Henry Rowan and his wife pledged $100 million to the school, and it was renamed in his honor. How did Henry Rowan come to have so much money that he could donate $100 million of it to a college?
Back in 1953, Rowan went to his employer with an idea for a couple of improvements on the machines his company was using. The improvements weren’t revolutionary. They weren’t really anything special. But they would make the machines work better. The company decided not to adopt the ideas. So Rowan left and started building his own machines. He grew his company to where it now has 80 subsidiaries worldwide and is responsible for half of the melting systems in use around the world today.
I thought this was an incredible story. A hugely successful business being borne out of a rejected idea. The world of business is filled with stories like this. People who saw an opportunity and believed enough in it to make it happen. Ideas are everywhere. What is in short supply is the courage to make that leap toward turning an idea into reality.
Most new business opportunities start with a question. Something like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if …” or “Why don’t we do this instead …” Look for ideas that make improvements — huge ones or incremental ones — on existing products. BASF had an entire marketing campaign around “We make a lot of the products you buy better.”
It takes an inquisitive mind and a courageous spirit to truly capitalize on a new business idea. If you need help with either, please reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help.