Pivot seems to be the buzz word being used a lot lately during these uncertain times as it relates to business and personal career choices.  But what does it really mean?

To pivot in business means to change, modify, or enhance one or more of the following:

  • Your products and services.
  • Your target markets and ideal clients.
  • Your unique value proposition and marketing messages.

In short, to pivot in business means to make a change in your business mission by creating a clear definition of 1) what you do, 2) for whom you do it, and 3) what value you create.  Pivoting means to fundamentally change any one or more of these three aspects of your mission and thus requires a comprehensive change to all aspects of your business from marketing to final delivery when you make such changes.

Obviously, the current economic conditions have thrown a wrench into the works of most businesses and many will need to pivot to survive.  But there is a silver lining.  The current situation provides you with the opportunity to innovate and look at your operations with fresh perspective.  You have the opportunity, or perhaps the necessity, to revise, refresh, and strengthen all aspects of your business, discard underperforming products, create new solutions to customer issues, attack new markets, fix ineffective processes, and hone your value proposition, marketing, and operations.  And, it could even lead to the next best thing!

The most practical place to pivot is by looking at the changing needs of your current clients to determine what more you might be able to provide them with only minor changes to products, services, or value proposition messaging.  It is far easier to sell to existing customers in current markets than to attract new customers in new markets with new products.  If you can, ask your clients what their needs are and how you might adjust your services to meet their changing needs.  Adding at home delivery or customer pickup if you are a restaurant is the classic example of this type of change (whether forced or not).

The next less disruptive place to look is to provide new products or services to existing clients and markets.  Here, you want to explore expertise or capabilities you may already have in house to help you leverage into new products.  This might mean providing consulting services on LEAN process management to your business clients who use your product in their assembly lines, or to provide new menu items.  Alternately, it may be to add a new line of product using your existing manufacturing capabilities such as making facemasks if you are a clothing manufacturer or making hand sanitizer if you are a distiller.  Both are classic examples of this type of pivot.

Finally, look to provide wholly new products and services to new markets.  Obviously, this is the most disruptive pivot and is, in fact, akin to going back to “start-up mode.”  But it should not be just any new product or service, it has to 1) solve a known need, 2) have a clear market, 3) be something for which you (hopefully) have a basic capability to develop and deliver and, 4) should be a last resort based on a lack of need or market for your current products and services.

To ensure success of your pivot requires you to revise your business processes from marketing to delivery, clear communication of these changes to staff and stakeholders, and defining new measurements for success and accountability.  Our next post will talk about how to revise your processes, measurements, and accountability to steer your pivot toward success.