Headed in the Wrong Direction? It’s Time to Pivot

I want to let you in on a secret. It’s a little known fact, so be careful who you share it with. We entrepreneurs, rarely, if ever, do we get this whole business thing right the first time.

Shocking, I know.

More often than not, entrepreneurs run head-on into a brick wall of unknowns. When you’re an entrepreneur, you work long hours, neglect your families and drink unhealthy amounts of coffee. You push until there’s nothing left in order to achieve your goals and see your idea flourish.

And then it happens. You realize you’re doing everything wrong.

Every startup experiences this moment of ohmygodwhatnow. It’s a defining moment. On one hand, you can continue with what you’ve built and hope it works. Or, you can stop, reassess, and start over.

Welcome to the pivot.

Pivots are intimately tied to the core concept of the lean startup. This is because startups are focused on a very specific business model: a repeatable and scalable concept. As a result, pivots occur when a change of direction appears based on previously validated learnings. They’re “a-ha” moments that help a company differentiate and establish a distinctive and disruptive perspective.

How Can Your Company Pivot

Pivots can be broken down into three very broad categories:

1) Customer Segment – Same Product, Different Customer

This type of pivot occurs when prior learnings suggest that your product or service may resonate with a different type of customer.

2) Customer Problem – Better Product, Better Solution

Startups are focused on creating a product of service that will eliminate a specific problem for their customer. However, it’s not until you become deeply engaged with your customer that you really understand their needs. This often leads to a defining pivot in your business model, and enables you to produce a superior solution.

3) Enhanced Feature – Same Product, Different Use

This occurs when one particular feature of a product or service resonates with customers, ultimately causing the business to focus and orient around that piece. Just because people aren’t using your product they way you envisioned, doesn’t mean that it’s a failure. Try to figure out why your customers are using it at all, and how you can provide more value based on their needs.

Pivoting takes courage. It requires creative thinking and forces you to innovate based on customer feedback. But remember, pivots are derived from data and learnings. In short, it means you’re doing something right – something that’s worth pivoting on. Sometimes you end up heading in the right direction following a pivot, and sometimes you don’t. It’s a hard pill to swallow when that happens, but that’s business. Wouldn’t you rather figure that out quickly and move on, rather than struggle to force a product that doesn’t work?

Recognizing that your original business model is flawed can be a real eye-opener. Successful entrepreneurs are able to take this in stride, reassess their approach, and take decisive action.

So embrace the pivot. You might be surprised where it leads you.

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