In our experience there is something that impacts every single company and organization at some point in their journey, and that’s the Pivot. Something happens, or you have new information, and it requires a new way to think, plan, and execute.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
What is a pivot? Simply put, it’s a change in direction in reaction to a change in circumstances or new information. It does not necessarily mean a complete refactoring of your company or business model, though it might. It could also be as simple as discovering an opportunity you had not seen before and incorporating that new information into your model and plan and executing on it.
“Fail fast” is fashionable right now, in particular in the startup world. But I think it is terrible idea, and from a certain standpoint, it glorifies it, and gives permission to the idea that failing is good.
The reality is that no one sets out to fail. What they really mean is pivot fast.
Innovative entrepreneurs take intelligent risks, and we seek to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then act on that knowledge, optimizing our processes, business model, marketing, etc. But optimization and pivoting are nothing like failure. Just the opposite – it is an iterative process that makes course corrections before disaster occurs.
Reasons for a pivot
The reasons for a Pivot aren’t always negative but deciding to pivot can be a reaction to negative forces. Sometimes there are very positive things that happen that dictate a pivot, but you have to be open to seeing them, and reacting to them properly.
Reasons for a pivot can include:
- Your traction isn’t what you expected
- You’ve learned what works, and what doesn’t
- You identify a new customer segment that presents an opportunity
- You get additional funding you didn’t anticipate (this does happen and it can be a problem)
Sometimes you have no choice, and we call that The Forced Pivot. These are things that you thought you had under control but didn’t, and you have no choice but to pivot. These scenarios include:
- Loss of resources
- Loss of funding
- Business or pricing model unexpectedly validated poorly
- Competition crushes you
Build on what you have done
If you do decide to pivot, it should align with your overall vision and you should build on what you have done. That’s not always possible, and if you are not building on that foundation, it is much more than a pivot, and more like a complete reboot. That might be required, but that is another even bigger decision!
Do it ASAP and do it right
Once you decide to pivot, do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. A pivot usually requires a lot of moving pieces that can cascade into a torrent of changes throughout your organization. It can impact your budget, customers, communications, sales, marketing, your applications, support – everything facet of your business and organization could be impacted. Manage the process. Make a plan. Execute against it.
Avoiding the Shiny Object Syndrome
As entrepreneurs, we are creative and expansive people by nature. We tend to see problems as opportunities, and we accept risk, which is all great. But that tendency can also lead to something we call Shiny Object Syndrome. SOS is something we need to fight against, and I have a bad case of it myself. It is easy to get excited about a new idea, and your current model maybe isn’t getting the traction you expected, and to want to go in a new direction.
If it is a simple change or extension of your business model, that is a natural progression and probably everyone is going to be onboard. However, if your pivot markedly and dramatically changes your company, you need to make sure that everyone understands your motivation and your plan. If you have partners, investors, and stakeholders, let them know what you are thinking and make your pitch. Do the research and make the case. If it’s just yourself, it’s even more important to do the research and treat yourself like you would a partner. But just jumping at a new opportunity, without planning, can look like Shiny Object Syndrome.