How to Spot a Golden Opportunity at Your Day Job and Turn It Into a Winning Business

Take note of the world in your workplace and what’s waking you to find the next revolutionary business concept.

Curiosity is the driving force behind every breakthrough invention. If it wasn’t for curiosity, the world wouldn’t would have discovered electricity, launched into space, or  over here  created an effective vaccine called Covid-19 within record-breaking time. While it’s simple enough to think of a great notion — these are all around and everywhere, those that transform the entire field and profession require us to pay attention to the issues that are right in front of us in our everyday lives. And then ask “How can I change that? How can I make things better? How can I use my curiosity for good?”

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This is exactly what I found after I transitioned from a full-time professor within McMaster University’s Department of Medicine at McMaster University to an entrepreneur and co-founder of Acuity Insights, formerly Altus Assessments which is a Toronto-based business that now employs 150 employees. The whole thing began with a test that challenged the notion that being a book-savvy person was enough to be a successful teacher, doctor, nurse, or business professional. The test tests professionalism and social intelligence. It is used in conjunction with measures of knowledge. And we’ve observed how more holistically you evaluate someone, the better we are able to comprehend and help the person.

I spotted a gap and saw a chance to create a game-changing technology. The company has now expanded to offer a full array of products designed for higher education institutions that link key data points across the entire learning process from the moment of application until graduation, giving key information factors to guide the decisions. Acuity has a partnership with more than 350 higher education institutions around the world.

My experience has shown that nearly everyone can see an opportunity within their daily job and transform it into a profitable business. Here are five tips to consider whenever you get a chance to so that you can knock the new venture out of park:

  1. Be on the lookout for solutions

If we set a pile of books lying on the ground and the longer they stay there, the easier it is to move over them. As time passes and we lose track of them there because we’ve become familiar with finding an alternative way.

The idea for my company was ignited by the realization that a non-effective solution using letters of recommendation and personal statements to evaluate the applications of students simply wasn’t working. They were biased. Medical schools, mine included, are required to do better in accepting new students. Being a great doctor means more than just academic marks and high grades, or the amount of knowledge you have. It’s about applying this knowledge to provide your patient with the skills of communication and empathy, as well as collaboration, ethics and professionalism.

So, we performed thorough research: put in more than five years collecting data and improving assessments to ensure that we were measuring the things that mattered. After that, other organizations and programs started to be interested in the work we were doing as well. We wondered: Should they have access to our revolutionary software? Can we make money from it? After a while, I realized that our revolutionary business concept that had been tucked away within the ivory tower wasn’t now ready to be implemented in life in the world.

  1. Be aware of your thoughts.

It can be difficult to determine the things we’re most passionate about especially when we’re trying to balance multiple things to do. To pinpoint the idea that will keep your attention and passion in the long run, you must take a moment to listen to yourself. If, a few years ago I’d recorded myself talking about the need to change the medical school assessment process I’m certain I’d have realized it was truly a passion.

Talk with a person you know or within your circle about your idea. Are you excited? Do you feel more animated? Feel free. These suggestions could be the launching pad to transform a side business into a lucrative career, or even transform your industry by doing so.

  1. Be aware of the places you’re spending your spare time.

What are you doing with your time when you’re not able to spare it? Are you passionate about your side project and you can’t keep experimenting with it? Do you find yourself leaning on certain occasions or inquiring more about particular areas? Consider what motivates you.

The transition from a highly-respected academic career to the new frontier of startups wasn’t easy, however. I worked for years long hours at University as an instructor. Then, I began working long nights and weekends, working on the business. I reached a critical point where I realized that if would like to change the world I needed to change my priorities. I ended up trading the security of academia to pursue a full-time career as an entrepreneur. It all started when I was pregnant for seven months when I founded Acuity Insights with my co-founder, Harold Reiter, a radiation oncologist with an equally difficult job. Since I was able to pursue my interests and never quit, I never gave up even though it was tough.

  1. Be prepared for resistance

When I decided to quit my full-time university job to join the corporate world I sent an email to my coworkers to inform them of my decision that I was leaving. Some of them accidentally added me with their comments to me regarding my decision. It was a shocker I am aware that many of them had not considered a career other than academia. However, at the conferences that I attended, I was able to explain to them why I was so enthusiastic and exuberant. I was able to share with them the story of my “why.” I was aware that my “why” wasn’t tied to my job, it was about making the biggest impact.

If you’re experiencing resistance to the career change you’re considering seeking out those who have taken the same decision or are currently working in the field you’d like to advance in to learn about the obstacles and opportunities that you could encounter. Also, don’t forget to set aside time to look into your personal “why.” Knowing the core of what is driving you will keep you striving to achieve your goals.

  1. Get unstuck

If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d become an executive vice president and co-founder of a company I would have doubted you. I believed that I did not have the skills needed. We often think that we’re only able to perform the job we’re currently employed in and have fixed expectations of what’s possible for us. As a professional in a field, it is likely that you have unique insight and experience in tackling a larger issue. There are many individuals with marketing, sales, and accounting degrees that can be employed. But innovators bring vision. Learn to recognize that, and step out of your way. With time your curiosity, vision, and drive will ignite the imagination of those who surround you.

Take note of the world in your workplace and what is igniting you to discover the next game-changing business concept. When you’re trying to find an entirely new path in your career it’s all about passion and curiosity.

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