Five 'New' Business Opportunities for the New Year

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All of my callers and writers start our conversations with the reassurance that they know 2002 is going to be a great year. I think what we all really mean is that it's got to be better than 2001.

But, in business, we largely make our own luck. We find market opportunities, pick the ones we're suited for (or can accommodate our skills to) and apply some combination of hope, luck and hard work. I can't help you much with the luck or hard work, but I thought I could give you a head start with some ideas that look worth considering in 2002.

1. Point yourself at a market that has money. Fortune 500 and small business buyers are, in general, going to be careful spenders through the first half of 2002, but there are some market segments that have deeper pockets, less dependency on stock market cycles or are in tune with the times. Especially promising segments to consider include federal and state governments (they can finally get all the skilled IT staff they need, now that so many other job opportunities have disappeared), pharmaceuticals and healthcare (there is no cycle here--we always need them), and the Midwest is in healthier shape than other areas of the country.

2. Sell something customers want to buy. Two years ago, that was Web sites. This year, it's security of all types. Business customers want security audits, encryption, firewalls and back-up and recovery schemes of all types. Hone your skills in this area, hire expertise or learn new skills and you'll be set for several years.

3. The ASP market is perking up. Customers are loathe to spend their own capital or add staff, so supporting applications via outsourcing is now more interesting--and the ASP market is beginning to settle down and figure out what it might be like when it grows up. One of the things it's figured out is that it needs local partners with vertical market skills, customer relationships and the ability to customize and support applications. Find a good (and appropriate) ASP and increase the amount of business your do with existing customers by providing a new and valuable service.

4. This could be the year that wireless business applications begin to take off. IT departments won't invest in anything that doesn't have a visible pay-off, but with devices and service getting cheaper, and standards emerging, a differentiating application that could make the IT department a hero--and the VAR who implements it a permanent partner--could be just around the corner.

5. New Web services are beginning to emerge. They're being used first to let existing applications and databases interoperate, then to build new ones. Get ahead of this curve and you could be the one supplying new services (at premium prices), while trained staff is still scarce

This year is shaping up to be a slow recovery, but in some sectors things will be (or already are) business as usual. Pick the right place, and you'll have a head start on a great year.

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