Leveraging Unexpected Opportunities in Business

By Chris Guertin, an EO Minnesota member and president of Sport Resource Group.

I have always told my friends that the difference between entrepreneurs and larger corporations is that entrepreneurs tend to be more proactive, whereas larger, older corporations are predominantly reactive. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule with companies like Apple and Google, but for the most part, we as entrepreneurs have to view things differently in order to be out in front of an event or trend that may or may not happen. That definitely takes vision. 

Approximately two weeks ago, Boston Bruins player Zdeno Chara hit Montreal Canadiens player Max Pacioretty into the boards and upper containment during an NHL game in Quebec. Unfortunately, Pacioretty ended up with a severe concussion and a broken neck. While debate raged about whether the hit was legal or illegal, intentional or accidental, deserved punishment or was “part of the game,” I wondered why any of these questions had to be asked in the first place.

You see, I had invented a safety pad for that exact location of the rink 18 months prior. In the past year and a half, I attempted to sell these new safety pads to every amateur and professional body of hockey who would listen. We had moderate interest, but unfortunately, I knew that it might take an injury to get people talking about improved safety conditions in rinks. Our pads are different than the industry-standard pad. Under strict testing conducted by Vector Scientific, Inc., our SRG Fusion Safety Pads reduced the impact that causes concussions by 88 percent, versus no padding at all, and reduced the impact by 75 percent, when compared to the standard industry padding. 

Another important event that occurred after Pacioretty’s injury is that the media became involved. Members of the media began to spread the word about my product, and they were getting quotes from former players, which I would not have been able to get by myself. As an example, we showed off our pads to the NHL at their Research and Development Camp in Toronto in August 2010, which is organized by Brendan Shanahan, a former NHL player and the league’s vice president of hockey and business development.

Shortly after the injury, Brendan gave this quote to our local paper: “When Chris showed up and put them up, even aesthetically looking, it seemed a big difference. Then it was just a matter of him backing up his data and claims that they provide more protection and decrease the risk of concussions. We feel after some thorough, rigorous testing, that’s been done. We think there’s a future there.”

What did this experience teach me? To always be alert. There are a lot of great opportunities out there that entrepreneurs can recognize, they just have to be willing to open up their minds. Also, I learned that it’s always better to create a product before it is needed, rather than afterward. If you believe in your product, keep pushing it. Hopefully, you won’t need an injury to get people to take notice.

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