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Opportunities Have Expiration Dates

by Dr. Burl W. Randolph Jr.

The military operates at a breakneck pace for one reason, and one reason only:

Opportunities Have Expiration Dates

The concept of opportunities having expiration dates is nothing new, I have simply placed the concept into a usable vernacular. Missed, overlooked, short-lived, and fleeting opportunities all have expiration dates, but simply occur at different times. I will not go into the Timing of Opportunities with this post, but will outline some of the great military thought processes that make the US Military one of the most lethal fighting forces that the world has ever known. You can apply these same principles to your business, and no longer miss opportunities.

  1. Always have a plan. One of Mike Tyson’s greatest quotes was “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” (Berardino, 2012). He went on to explain that how you react when your plan goes sideways, says everything about you. That is why the military has contingency plans for contingency plans, because ‘going sideways’ is not an acceptable option. What’s your plan for Boy, I wish fill-in-the-blank would happen? Have you ever thought about what you would do, if your dream, big break, or opportunity came through?
  2. Always know where you are on the battlefield. In English, this means know your capabilities. So, when your ship sails in, will you be able to board it, or will it just sail on by? You must know what resources you have available to react when your opportunity arrives. What time, talent, and treasure do you have, to commit to this new-found prospect?
  3. The Enemy Gets a Vote. In this case, the enemy is your competitor, and if you do not take the opportunity, your competitor surely will if they can. What competitive advantage will this opportunity provide for your company? If you do not or cannot act on it, how can your competitor use it against you?
  4. Have a well-formulated Decision-Making Process. The Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) would be long and laborious except for one thing: All officers know it, so there is a Common Operating Picture (COP) already established. What’s the decision-making process in your organization? Is there one? Does it allow for quick reactions to emerging threats – opportunities, or sad faces when your competitor announces the new product or service you could not decide on?
  5. Time Is of the Essence. Opportunities can be like milk: When it goes bad, it’s gone. If you take weeks and months to make decisions, you will almost never have an opportunity. Know the time frame that the opportunity is available, and act!

The military is a well-established monolithic institution with tactics, techniques, procedures, and funding well beyond most organizations, so reactions to opportunities and threats are expansive. For most firms, starting with these five simple principles may suffice not to miss the next opportunity that comes along.

How will you take advantage of your next opportunity?


Berardino, M. (2012, Nov 9). Mike Tyson explains one of his most famous quotes. SunSentinel. Retrieved from http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-11-09/sports/sfl-mike-tyson-explains-one-of-his-most-famous-quotes-20121109_1_mike-tyson-undisputed-truth-famous-quotes

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