Being able to recognize the right opportunity is key to starting a successful business. Whether you want to launch a high-growth startup or a small business, or you are looking to expand your current business or portfolio, you need to be able to identify good business opportunities to build successful ventures. Being able to evaluate demand, the current marketplace and future trends are skills that you can develop that will aid in determining which opportunities are the right ones to pursue.

Then again, sometimes, all it takes is being faced with a problem. When Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook, he wasn’t looking for a business opportunity; he was looking for a way to connect people online and allow them to share information with each other. Similarly, Uber was born of the founders’ frustration at being unable to find a taxi.

Coming up with a good business idea, however, doesn’t always require a revolutionary concept or discovering a pain point in your own life. If one of these things happens to you, great, but for most entrepreneurs it involves careful consideration of societal, consumer and industry trends and identifying gaps in the marketplace to find the right business opportunity.

How can you learn how to do this yourself? All you need to do is stop, look and listen.

  1. Stop

Take a step back to research and assess the important trends that are occurring. Where is the economy headed? What is the political climate? How are our demographics changing? What technologies or societal developments are really changing lives or the way we live? Think about the impact of online shopping on the retail market or how the Internet of Things has changed the tech gear we buy and will buy in the future; these are examples of real influencers in current and future markets.

Another example is changes in business and labor markets. According to “Freelancing in America: 2017”, the fourth annual study conducted by Upwork and Freelancers Union, freelancers are expected to make up the majority of the American workforce in ten years from now. If this prediction is true, there will be some a big impact on everything from traffic and commuting services to international business markets and employment models; even retail and restaurant industries will be affected as more people base themselves from home. It also has great potential to create business opportunities for goods and services supporting the freelancer workforce.

The bottom line: pay attention to important trends happening across niche markets, the country and the globe.

  1. Look:

When assessing a business opportunity or searching for one, it’s important to look at the market, competition and industry trends. Are there any inefficiencies in the current market or are there unmet needs? Look for niche markets that are underserved or perhaps aren’t even served at all.

You also need to consider the competition. How competitive is the marketplace? What are your potential competitors doing? What aren’t they doing? What will your differentiator be? A thorough competitive analysis will help you assess the existing and future opportunities for your business.

Watch industry trends closely. Keep up to date on industry news and events and follow thought leaders for more insights. Network within your industry and with other business leaders. A good way to do this is to join industry associations or local business groups.

  1. Listen:

From friends and family to customers and your competitor’s customers, listen to what people are saying. What things frustrate them? What problems do they face? What would solve those problems or frustrations? What improvements would the like to see in the consumer products they currently use?

Listening to others will help you identify unmet needs or customer pain points in existing products and services, both of which provide opportunity for new business. Sometimes an everyday comment – like complaining about the lack of cabs for example – can spur a big business idea.

If you’re already operating a business, don’t forget to consider opportunities may exist within your current scope of business. Many successful business owners swear by conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis at least once a year to get a full picture of where the company is today, along with opportunities for growth. When considering the opportunities segment of your SWOT analysis, you will be looking at a wide range of trends across markets, economy, politics and demographics to see where your potential business opportunities for the future may lie. Of course you don’t have to conduct a formal SWOT analysis to make this happen, nor do you need to wait until next year to do so.

For most entrepreneurs, finding the right business opportunities requires careful research, planning and vision. Great ideas or big opportunities rarely just happen to you, but by waiting, watching and learning, the savvy entrepreneur will find the right opportunity at the right time.