Adversity vs. Opportunity
April 17, 2020 | BY Simcha Felder
The term “pivot” has become a buzzword for a significant business change, ranging from mild to dramatic. Entrepreneurs don’t pivot for the fun of it. A pivot is intended to help a business recover when other factors make the original business model unsustainable. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs face a tough decision in a situation with mounting challenges; they may be facing insurmountable competition or trying to survive a tough period. If a business can’t survive the way it is, a pivot is sometimes the only logical option.
Pivots are common. According to venture capitalist Fred Wilson, “Of the 26 companies that I consider realized or effectively realized in my personal track record, 17 of them made complete transformations or partial transformations of their businesses between the time we invested and the time we sold.” Though the sample size is small, this suggests a two‐thirds probability that a business will require a pivot at some point to succeed.
While the world is currently experiencing a sudden and devastating situation, this challenge is certainly not unprecedented in the business world. Sudden upheavals in business have become of a hallmark of the age of technological advancement we are living in.
The advent of the Internet took some businesses down, yet left others stronger. When Starbucks popped up, many in the coffee business went down, but others revamped and found a loyal, larger clientele. Did Uber ride into town and take down the taxi industry or did the taxis’ inability to change their way of doing business play a large role?
According to Simon Sinek, business owners should avoid slipping into survival mode when what they need is reinvention mode. Instead of asking, “How will we do what we do?!” What you need to ask is, “How will we do what we’re doing in a new world?” A reinvention mindset asks, “How will we change to get through this? And what will our business look like in a new world?” It is optimistic. It sees opportunity in imaging what we can be and what we can contribute in a new way.
Examples are already cropping up: A fine-dining establishment that found a way to sell and ship high-end food products that are not usually available to individuals outside the food industry. Clothing designers who put their staff to work sewing masks and other PPE instead of their usual high‐end designer apparel. These employees are all doing different jobs, but they are all employed in the same business. At the helm of these companies are leaders with vision who inspired buy-in from employees willing and able to pivot from their usual job and adapt to the needs of the company.
If we have learned anything from iTunes vs. the music industry, Blockbuster vs. Netflix, Toys R Us vs. the Internet‐ it is that change is inevitable. Our only choice is to keep moving forward. Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? That’s the future, and it is bright.