The Power of the Pivot

Pivot. The word can be taken many ways but it seems lately entrepreneurs have adapted it from it’s roots in basketball. When a basketball player pivots it means they firmly plant one foot on the floor and use the non-stationary foot to swivel from side to side until they can make a better short or pass.

Pivoting in the startup world is how smart people turn failing businesses into thriving ones and how new businesses often find their market. Though surprisingly simple, pivoting is often something most entrepreneurs refuse to do. Instead they’ll stick doggedly to their original idea and first notion of what their business should look like, this attitude will be one that takes their business all the way to the grave.

Why Pivoting is Essential

Think of the people you know who set out to “start a blog”, “build a business” or heaven forbid “make money blogging”. Probably a good number of these people have failed, maybe there blog is still up or perhaps there business is still limping along but in no way have they become the fantastic success they aimed for. Why?

Well if you take a cursory look at businesses that fail you’ll see loads of excuses from the would-be entrepreneur. Excuses like:

It was a bad market

Google/Facebook/Problogger started doing exactly what I was doing and I couldn’t compete

People just didn’t understand

I had a bad team

I had a bad co-founder

Well it was right after the market crashed

All of these excuses, are just that, big, fat, excuses. If failed entrepreneurs had pivoted and kept pivoting they would have eventually found a shot they could make.

Pivot Wisely

But pivoting isn’t as simple as just moving around, proper pivoting depends on the information input you are getting in about your market and about your customer. If you don’t have that you’ll just pivot in a circle and eventually fall down.

Let’s say your business or blog isn’t doing as hot as you’d like. Traffic is abysmal and profits aren’t even strong enough to buy you a swirly cone. So you take your business from path A to path B. But what was your pivot based on? If you answer “well this seemed better” I’ll slap you and you’ll just fail again. Double whammy. But if you get smart and realize that path A didn’t work because you weren’t really talking to your potential customers and getting a solid idea of what market need you are filling, then I’ll give you a hug and you’ll succeed.

It’s as simple as getting out from behind the computer and via skype, the phone or in person and getting people who are in your target market to give their opinion on whether your business “assumptions” are correct or not.

If they aren’t – you can fix them. You’ll answer that strong need in the market and you can just keep tweaking your assumptions until you finally hit the sweet spot. Most people will never get past the product creation stage, but remember the customer discovery stage and the multiple pivots to follow are what separates the entrepreneurs from the wantrepreneurs.

Extended reading for the few that matter: Read The Four Steps to the Epiphany and send me an email when you get to the end of it, if it doesn’t change your mindset about business and completely rework your startup’s focus – well I’ll let you call me names.