Closing Windows of Opportunity

Yesterday, I wrote about the insights Eric Feng shared during the Outlander Speaking Series. One of the things that really resonated with me was his answer to a question. For context, I asked him, “What’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known as a first-time founder early in your career?” Here’s his response: closing windows of opportunity. This has been on my mind all day today.

At CCAW, as at every startup, we always had a ton of things we were working on. Looking back, Eric is so right. I wish I had consistently prioritized opportunities based on their closing windows. Early on, we had an opportunity to be one of the first to offer a specific product category for online purchase by consumers. The market for this category is huge and it was primed for disruption. Being first mover would have required our full attention and fighting some battles to change an antiquated space. There were lots of technical challenges and we lacked a thorough understanding of the category and key relationships in the space. Big hurdles, but they were surmountable and worth the effort because of the size of the opportunity.

I chose to instead continue to focus on a product category that wasn’t growing but in which we had established relationships. Fast forward a few years: we tried to play catch-up in the high-growth product category—but we never did catch up. A competitor beat us to the punch and became a household name. That was a $250-million-annual-revenue decision. I should have pounced on the closing window of opportunity to be a first mover. I didn’t, and we paid the price.

Eric’s concept is simple and spot-on. It applies to everyone, not just entrepreneurs. Here’s an example that everyone can relate to: relationships. No one is immortal, so every relationship is a closing window of opportunity. I wish I’d spent more time with certain people who were in my life when I was young but who’ve since passed.

My mother reminds me often of something my grandmother told her: “Give me my roses while I can still smell them and sense the enjoyment they bring me.” I think Eric and my grandmother are loosely saying the same thing: some opportunities won’t be around forever. Be mindful of which ones are important, prioritize them, and make the most of them while you can—in all aspects of life!