If your startup is like most others, you have experienced a pivot of one kind or another. This can be for a variety of reasons -- either your target market changed along the way, you found a new opportunity or your business plan was flawed.
Regardless of the reason, it is important that you get the pivot right. When changing course, the last thing you want to do is set the team off on a wild goose chase or take a situation from bad to worse.
To give yourself the best shot at success when considering a major change in the business model, consider a few best practices.
Prepare for pivots early.
Part of making an effective pivot is planning ahead for one. As you found your business or work to take it to the next level, it is important that your team and investors anticipate pivots and prepare themselves mentally (and financially) in advance. Keep in mind that those who work with or have invested in you believe in you as much as they believe in the company’s mission. If you let the people around you know that a pivot could occur, not only will changing course will be less jarring, but you will be more likely to maintain your team’s confidence and trust.
Leverage customer support to sell the pivot.
The success of a pivot requires buy-in from those critical to its execution, so it can be dangerous to charge ahead over the objections of peers and investors. One solution is to let your customers make the case for you.
More often than not, pivots are driven by or impact customers. For example, a product or service may need an adjustment to serve clients more effectively or a sales process could require an overhaul to help the company win new business. In these cases, where the needs of customers are driving the pivot, gather relevant customer feedback and let the team hear it for themselves. Consider including a customer on a team call or bringing a client into the office to discuss the market. Though your team may trust you, hearing about the need for a pivot from the horse’s mouth can be more powerful than you simply telling the company the rationale behind your decision.
Be candid with your team.
The reality is a team can tell when things are not going right. And if you try to hide trouble, or the fact that you are considering a pivot, your silence will inevitably worsen the situation by generating confusion, speculation and plenty of gossip. Be honest about the company’s challenges, and you will find a variety of benefits. First, the team will be more likely to stick around, as they know you are aware of and working to overcome the problems rather than ignoring them. Second, the team may come up with ideas and solutions that can help you pivot faster and more effectively.