Stick or twist: The decision to pivot your business?

Stick or twist: The decision to pivot your business?

Stick or twist: The decision to pivot your business?

You launch your business, but so far it’s just not taking off the way you planned. Do you dig in and persevere or do you “pivot” and turn your focus in a new direction?

Ask most entrepreneurs who decided to pivot, and survived, odds are you’ll hear tales of how they wish they’d gone sooner.

On the other side of the equation you’ll find just as many, if not more, rousing stories of how our hero entrepreneur who almost gave up but came back for that one last try which turned out to be decisive, and the rest, as they say, is history. Queue music.

Either way it’s often an emotionally charged moment. A heart-wrenching decision, which everything is riding on.

It doesn’t take a rock scientist to realise that this is the exact opposite of how such a decision should be taken. The decision to pivot requires a clear head and an objective decision-making process.

Pivot too late, and you could lose everything you’ve worked so hard for. Pivot too soon, and you could miss out on the golden opportunity and your dream is gone as you swim around trying to make sense of a new market. Even if you do pivot well, you can find yourself successful in a field you have absolutely no interest in.

The entrepreneurs pivot, as popularised by Steve Blank and Eric Reiss amongst others is, at its best, a structured course correction, based on market feedback to try a significantly alternative direction.

The concept considers your business plan as a strategic hypothesis. The process queries whether progress to date provides enough evidence that the strategic hypothesis is correct or whether you should pivot and make a major change to pursue a new hypothesis. This shift of direction could relate to the product or service itself, your business model or any other fundamental aspect of your original strategic hypothesis.

Imagine a small sailboat racing out at sea. The captain and crew have raised anchor and set their sails to catch the wind and drive them across the ocean. Before too long they realise they aren’t progressing at the rate of knots they’d anticipated. Feedback from the elements in the form of limp sails is suggesting that something about the hypothesis our intrepid captain started with, in terms of the wind direction, weather conditions, tides, experience of the crew, design of the hull, may be wrong. The channel they’re sailing in, is also busier than they’d expected and as well as competing sail boats, they see a number of larger tankers crossing their intended path and, with no wind in their sails, our adventurous crew look to their captain for what to do next.

In this instance, there is likely no greater danger than a misguided decision to continue without change. The captain of the ship who cannot bring themselves to adjust the rudder and tack in a new direction on the back of clear evidence can get stuck in dangerously busy waters. The crew still eating, drinking and consuming finite resources as the ship drifts aimlessly on.

On other occasions all that’s needed from the captain is to trim the sails to catch the wind for the ship to soon be flying on the crest of the waves to its destination.

The clarity of vision to make a balanced and informed decision is better made before entering dangerous waters. A bi-monthly ‘pivot or persevere’ meeting that objectively considers your strategic hypothesis and decides if, and how to, progress on merit, can save heat of the moment decisions you could regret for a lifetime.



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