Is Now the Time to Pivot?
It’s COVID-19 time and the world has gone mad. Lockdown is everywhere and everyone is thinking “exit strategy”, and not in a good way. While these are challenging times for many, some are seeing a challenge as an opportunity. Those are entrepreneurs, problem solvers who like heading into brick walls and coming out on the other side. Metaphorically speaking, in most cases.
Pivots are something entrepreneurs do all the time.
It’s not something you do when you fail, but what you do to succeed.
But changing things around can be scary, and for a few good reasons:
- Doubt always finds a way to mess with you. Am I giving up too soon? Maybe I just need to push harder? Do I start from scratch? Where will I get the funding for it? These are all valid questions, but they cannot be answered by an internal voice.
- Change requires additional energy (That’s Newton). When you’re a solo-entrepreneur, it’s hard to muster up that extra energy when you're already at the top of your game. When you’re a part of a team, getting everyone on board can be mentally draining. Having investors might make that an almost impossibility.
- Say I pivot, where to? What do I keep? Where should I turn my attention to? Maybe this is as good as it gets, and it ain’t gonna get that good again (That’s Tarantino).
Fear and uncertainty are valid emotions, don’t cast them aside, but don’t let them lead you to analysis paralysis. Instead, let them drive you to focus on this simple Pivot technic.
Step 1: Mindset
Pivots are part of the business. They are not a euphemism for failure. If you’re pivoting, you are doing it right. Look at Netflix, Airbnb, Google, Amazon, Slack, and others. They all pivoted to success!
Step 2: Look inward
Why are you pivoting? Is it because what you are doing doesn’t work (anymore)? Or is it because everything around you has changed? (Hmmm Corona…). Your motivation is critical only to the extent you don’t fool yourself. The following steps are the same.
Step 3: Look outward
It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing doesn’t work anymore, or that things simply changed for your audience, the only way to fix that is to GET OUT OF THE BUILDING. No brainstorming, brain dumps, brainwashes, or brain trains can help. This is when Customer Discovery really comes in handy. Done right, it will help you better understand the value your audience is seeking, but also, where your proposition is most valued. Now, your audience might be very clear about what they need, but it might not be what you have. This is critical because pivoting does not automatically mean changing the product. Sometimes you need to pivot on your audience. Viagra kept their formula, just repurposed it for a new audience (or so I’ve heard).
Step 4: Analysis (hold the paralysis)
Your Customer Discovery should help you better understand what you should keep, and what you should pivot away from. There is no secret recipe for that but I will leave you with two very important tips (Actually they came from Andy Rachleff):
Tip One: Keep your insights. In your journey so far you’ve probably gained new knowledge that others will have to work as hard to gain. Don’t throw it away.
Tip Two: Don’t pivot into consensus. If your customers want it to taste like Coke, look like Coke, and smell like Coke, they should get a Coke.
Step 5: Validate
With your new state of mind and newfound knowledge of what your (new?) audience is looking for, it’s time to validate. Make an assumption and try to prove you’re wrong. Proving yourself right is too easy and very rewarding, nit will often turn out to be a false positive. If you focus on proving yourself wrong, your mind will not be satisfied until you really get it right.
- Validation is a process. Give it time. Rinse and repeat until you are certain (enough) with your new-found purpose.
- If everything is changing around, your audience is most likely even more stressed-out and confused than you are. Be empathic when reaching out to them, they will reward you for this with insights and trust.
- Be focused and creative. Spend more time on thinking (with others) than building something nobody wants.
- Read inspiring stories on pivots other companies have done. It will energize you.
Oh, almost forgot.
I’m doing my own Customer Discovery.
If you’re an entrepreneur, be sure to fill it out. 2 minutes.