Where’s the Parade?

I’ve been thinking about new business ideas recently and a phrase from early in my work life keeps popping into my head. The speaker was Jim Barksdale, who ran what became AT&T Wireless after the McCaw Cellular empire was acquired by AT&T. (I worked for a McCaw-funded project called Claircom Communications in the early 1990’s, and Jim was something like my boss’s boss’s boss). Jim is a southerner and has a disarming and informal speaking style; his advice was: “go out and find the biggest parade you can and get in front of it.”

As we learned at Judy’s Book, it’s very, very hard to create new markets from scratch. It may not seem as exciting, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to find a big, fast-growing area of opportunity and find a way to participate in that growth. Now, whenever I’m considering a new business idea (my own or someone else’s) one of the first questions I ask is: “where’s the parade?” If I can’t find it, it’s probably not an idea worth chasing.