Top tips to adapting and pivoting
Before any business is established the founder will of course have spotted a gap in the market, thought of the original idea, conducted research, and come up with the MVP. Taking these basic thoughts and then forming a business around them, with all the necessary steps that regular readers will now be very familiar with, does of course take considerable time and effort.
In many cases it can also mean investing considerable money until the business becomes profitable and self-sustaining.
But beware! However good the original idea, and however strong the original business, there is never time to sit back and be complacent. Even if your product or service really does lead the competition when first introduced, the only thing that you can be sure of is that your competitors, and the market as a whole, will constantly be changing and improving. At the very least, it is crucial that your business keeps up with the competition and, preferably, stays as far ahead of it as possible.
Sometimes though, checking on the competition’s offerings, and making sure that your business and products are evolving is not enough. Sometimes, in order to grow, or even to survive, revolution rather than evolution is necessary. This may be because of advances in technology or simply because the buyers are demanding something different.
So, if circumstances permit, or even demand, that you adapt or pivot your business, what are the top tips to doing this?
- Timing – As with everything in business, much depends on timing. Failing to adapt or pivot can be a very quick way for your business going from doing very well, to struggling, or even failing totally. However, adapting or pivoting too soon when the market is not ready for your new offering, or when the technology is not as widely accepted as necessary, can also lead to major problems. I have seen many examples of both but there is no doubt that not reacting quickly enough is by far the most typical.
- Adapting – In many ways adapting can be seen as being something of a partial or gentle pivot. In business, the client is always right and what people or businesses want to buy evolves over time. This, if no other reason, means that your business should constantly adapt to meet the changing demand. Generally, this adaptation is incremental, but any good business owner should also always be looking to take advantage of changing circumstances by bringing in different but complimentary offerings, thus opening up new markets whilst retaining the existing ones.
- Pivoting – On occasion, circumstances are such that simply adapting may not be enough. This may be caused by some form of uncontrollable outside event or ‘force majeure’ such as the coronavirus lockdown or other major event totally disrupting your original business, or it may be by choice as new but radically different markets open up and offer potentially much better opportunities. During the first part of the coronavirus lockdown the Financial times reported that over 40% of UK SMEs had pivoted in some meaningful way and, of those, 21% were more profitable than they had ever been. On the other side, many companies did not adapt or pivot and a large number of those suffered badly or indeed failed. Pivoting purely out of choice is much more courageous but can have exactly the same consequences, and history tells us that many of the more visionary businessmen and women that pivot into the right thing at the right time are those that are truly successful.
In essence, adapting and pivoting is in many ways the natural extension of continuing to do all the best practices that are followed when establishing in business in the first place. Many small business owners seem to forget the need to constantly research and review the market and all aspects of their business. The biggest tip of all is to keep doing that and be prepared to adapt and pivot in need.