The Art Of The Pivot

What Is Pivoting?

We’ve all heard about pivoting and the need to pivot quickly. Many of us may not understand what pivoting is.

Pivoting is simply the noticing there’s a change that needs to be made in your business. This could be a shift in the product you produce (during COVID-19 we saw plenty of this. One of the pivots I really enjoyed seeing was a sign company that went from producing signs to producing personal protection equipment using clear plexiglass). This could be a shift in the customers you serve. Or it could be shifting the social media platforms you are using.

A road that turns back on itself

Photo by Tanner Larson

All of these require you to move from one place to another or from one direction to another. That’s a pivot. It’s the movement of going from one industry to another industry, one product to another product, or one kind of customer to another.

Pivoting can seem like it is a U-turn. Or a sharp change in direction. I think more often it is the pathway your organization was supposed to take. Only you didn’t see the turn in the road as you continued on.

When To Pivot?

You have to know when and how to pivot. If you don’t, you’ll wind up like Circuit City, Blockbuster, or MySpace. All of these businesses took too long to pivot. By the time they did, they died.

Do you know when to pivot?

Ahhh… This is the good old question and one you need to be able to answer. Luckily, there’s a few signs you can look for to know when to pivot.

The signs you need to pivot are:

There’s too much competition: Competition is good. It lets you know there’s a market for your product or service.

However, marketplaces can become bloated. Too many fish in a pond is toxic to the fish. Too many competitors in a market and it can be toxic to your organization.

Pay attention to the competition. Are there too many people competing for the same fish? It may be time to pivot out of your current market or industry.

There’s no longer any passion: Passion goes a long way for a business. When the passion is strong, you’ll work longer hours, you’ll find ways to make the difficult tasks work, and you’ll go to the ends of the earth to get the job done.

But, sometimes, passion leaves us. We can find ourselves looking at the business we created or the team that we’ve led and wonder where the passion went.

It went away.

This is fine. Passion comes and goes. Noticing passion is gone is a sign you need to pivot.

Look at ways to pivot into a similar role, industry, or market. The pivot doesn’t have to be much. And the pivot may reignite your passion.

There’s no longer the same market: Markets change. This is a fact of business. It’s one you need to pay attention to.

Markets change all of the time. Just think of the radio.

Radio was hot. You could tune into your favorite radio show and hear all of the songs you enjoyed. Then something happened.

The television appeared.

Now you could watch your favorite band perform on MTV in a music video. This was beyond amazing. It brought music to a new level. Some would say TV video killed the radio star.

And then another thing happened… Digital music made an appearance.

People could now download or stream their favorite songs at their convenience.  This was another pivot in the music industry.

Some people caught it early. Others tried to jump on too late.

Those that pivoted lived. Those that chose to stay where they were suffered.

Markets change and shift. They move from one medium to another. Pay attention or be left behind.

How To Pivot

You also need to know how to pivot. If you pivot incorrectly, you could wind up dead like the aforementioned companies. You don’t want that!

You pivot by:

Asking your customers: Steve Jobs, of Apple, wasn’t fond of asking his customers what they wanted. I think he was on to something. I also believe he missed great opportunities because of this.

Your customers will let you know where they’re headed. All you have to do is ask them.

  • Find out what social media platforms they’re using. Start checking them out.
  • Ask what’s changed in their lives. This can be a clue to where they’re moving next.

These are things you can do to find out what your customers want and what they’re moving too. Listen to them. Give them what they want.

Making it quick: Pivots shouldn’t be a long, drawn-out process. Pivots are quick and startling.

Find what needs to pivot. Begin to pivot. Make the pivot.

You’ll lose some people. You’ll gain some people. And you’ll find out that pivoting is a good thing.

Looking for opportunities: You have to have your eyes wide open. They can’t be shut. Businesses pivot because they’re looking for ways to improve their product, serve their customer, or enjoy work more.

These opportunities present themselves only when you open your eyes.

Be on the lookout for new opportunities, not shiny objects. These new opportunities align with what you’re doing but shift ever so slightly from your current path.

Don’t stop looking for opportunities. They’re there. Find them.

This is the art of the pivot. Take these lessons to heart on pivoting and your business will survive pretty much anything.

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