Entrepreneurs face challenges everyday as a part of doing business. The ability to ‘turn on a dime’ or ‘pivot’ can be the difference between failure and success.
Plenty of reasons for pivoting; in business and even in ones’ personal life, these are most likely driven by the need to improve results. In a start up if you are not gaining traction with users or customers, and or are not making sales, it’s time to consider a pivot. Making a change in the most cost- and time-efficient way is just like turning on a dime.
Ask these five key questions to help you determine if and what you need to change. They can be equally helpful with your start up, small business or even related to your personal career goals if you work in a large company.
1. What are the indications that you need to change?
Are you losing traction, are your wheels spinning in place, are you even skidding out of control? Are you meeting your short-term milestones or checkpoints as part of your long term strategy and goals?
How about your customers; what are they saying about you? Is their sentiment positive or negative? Where would you rate them on the loyalty scale?
How do you feel about your clients or customers (or those you work with?) When a small business owner starts complaining about their customers, this could be a strong indication that it’s time for change. How drastically do you need to pivot? Read on.
2. How do you decide what to change?
This is perhaps the hardest question. When something just isn’t working, one’s first inclination is to change everything 180 degrees, or even go out of business. Sometimes this may be the right decision, however doing a thorough assessment of what is working or is not working; doing a reality check an important first step.
Business assessments, reviews and reality checks come down to asking hard questions. Questions which might be asked by your mentor, advisor, board of directors, accountant, or even your customers. Sometimes making a spreadsheet with two columns; (1) things that are working, and (2) things that are not, can surprise you. Maybe more things are working than not and you only need to change one part of your focus. Or maybe nothing is working and the fast pivot is in the direction of fail!
3. How much time do you have to implement change?
Do you need to pivot gracefully like a ballerina, or corner on 2 wheels like a racecar? Will “fast” result in gaining or losing traction? If you are driving in the snow fast acceleration will result in your wheels spinning in place and you will get nowhere; if you accelerate slow and steady you can move forward and be on your wayJ
Sometimes fast is appropriate as in “Fail Fast”! If everything is going wrong, and you cant get any traction with customers, and are not meeting your milestones, it may be better to fail sooner rather than prolonging the agony (especially if financial drain is involved). If you can’t get traction in the snow, leave your car in the snow bank and call the tow truck!
4. How will you manage the impact of your pivot?
Often this is a matter of putting the right spin on things with your customers or clients. Timing is important, as in the speed of the change is (covered in 3 above) ~ “Our customers have told us that they love our red gizmo most of all, so we have discontinued the yellow and blue gizmos, to focus on our customers preferred choice “ ~ How does that make your customers feel? The reality was that no yellow and blue gizmos were selling!
Putting a positive spin on going out of business, ending a start up, or just simply failing can be no different. There can actually be a successful fail.
You’ll be managing your story of change wherever your customers are receptive. Do they read your blog, engage on social networks, come into your store or read local newspapers? Some businesses or companies make a point of calling all their loyal customers, and when updating the customers on changes in the company, use this as an opportunity to make new sales!
5. How will you know if your change is working?
This might seem obvious to gauge when your cash flow increases, your bottom line is positive and customers flock to your website, both new ones and the old ones return. But, after your revenue spikes after a pivot, will it sustain? Once you’ve successfully made the turn around, how do you keep it going? You’re moving again, no longer stuck in the snow, confident you’ll be home soon…..not too confident I hope, that you drive off the road in the next icy patch….
Of course with a fail decision it’s easier to see: no more cash flow bleed and end of story.
The questions above should all be asked, and answered accurately (no real point in fooling yourself), and will give you some insight as to the health of your business, and whether you need to make a fast, slow, miniscule or wholesale change of direction; a direction which if implemented correctly might save and help your business grow and sustain itself.