5 min read
Did people say no to you before? They might say yes now.
Were they afraid of your idea before? Maybe not anymore.
And what about you, personally? Did you think something was once impossible, or that you’d reached your limit? Now you might discover otherwise.
I am seeing this pattern over and over — of entrepreneurs and companies and even industries rapidly shedding what used to seem like dogma. What a massive opportunity that is.
Here’s an example. Aziz Hashim owns more than 700 franchise units in North America, and a few years ago, he had a crazy idea to make more money. Even during normal times, his restaurants (and most restaurants!) tend to have extra kitchen capacity. That’s a problem: They had spent millions of dollars to build the facility and didn’t have enough customers to fully maximize it. Meanwhile, many brands want to expand into new markets but can’t afford to build a new space.
So what’s the solution? Sell one brand’s food out of another brand’s kitchen! Meals from The Captain’s Boil, a seafood brand in Canada, can be made in a Ruby Tuesday in America and delivered to a customer who ordered online. Hashim built a platform to enable those kinds of swaps, and originally envisioned it as a tool to help his own franchises. When the pandemic hit, however, he decided to open the platform up to any brand. He thought it might help the industry at large.
When Aziz and I spoke recently, I was intrigued by his disruptive potential. His idea challenges the very notion of what a restaurant is, and it seems like the first step in a mashed-up world where anything can come from anywhere. I could imagine the restaurant industry hating it — in normal times, that is. So I asked him: Have people been faster to adopt this now, because of the pandemic?
His answer: “Significantly.”
In fact, his company is struggling to keep up with requests. They’re being flooded — from restaurants in need, yes, but also stores and hotels. If people had reservations about his concept before, they don’t now. They’re hungry for new ideas and new options, and he has them.
That’s one example of change being sped up. And here’s a much smaller, but more personal one:
For the past few years, I’ve been writing a column much like this one inside every issue of Entrepreneur magazine. I love doing it, and I’ve been grateful for the feedback I get from readers. Maybe, I’d often thought, I could write even more columns. Maybe I could create a weekly version that runs online! But then I’d stop myself. I don’t have time for that, I’d say. I have too much to do already. Will I even have enough ideas? Frankly, I’m maxed out.
When this crisis struck, however, I realized I had an opportunity. People wanted information and perspective, and I felt I had something to offer. So I told the team here: “I’m writing a weekly newsletter.” How would it happen while I’m at home with two little kids and an ever-growing mountain of work? I didn’t know. But it felt possible — and that’s all I needed. And I’m so glad I did it.
This is the crazy magic of entrepreneurs. We live in a world of challenges and setbacks, and we’ve been dismissed (or dismissed ourselves!) repeatedly. We are told no, or told to stay in our lane, or told to wait our turn. But we don’t listen. When the moment is right, we somehow clear our memories; we forget the boundaries that others had drawn, or that we’d drawn for ourselves.
Then we think: Now’s the time.
Or Now’s the time to try again.
Or Now won’t be the last time I try.
This pandemic feels stifling and is causing great hardship. But that’s not the end of it. There’s a freedom here, too — a freedom to navigate a shaken-up world, to provide solutions to people newly in need, and to forget whatever negativity we carried over from the old world.
A lot may be wrong right now, but a lot is possible as well. And possibility is all we need.