What’s a pivot? It can mean anything from expanding your cupcake bakery to include cakes and bear claws to shifting your legal practice from family law to just being focused on divorce matters, or some other practice entirely. Essentially, it’s making a quick change from your original business focus to something different. Aside from it being all the rave, how do you know if a pivot is right for you and your business? Great question.
One of the strategic advantages small businesses have over larger businesses is flexibility. Generally, it takes a small or boutique business a shorter period of time to make a decision. When you see the industry or market shifting in a particular direction, instead of scheduling a series of meetings, and sending countless emails to work up the management hierarchy, small businesses can often get the same work done in a fraction of the time. Yay, efficiency. So, if you’re reading the tea leaves, staying on top of the industry news or are ready to make a change, a pivot may be right for your business. Using these tactics can help you identify the trends that may require your company to make a pivot.
- Eyes Wide Open
You can’t see the change if your eyes are closed or your head is buried in the sand. DE’s Rules of Entrepreneurship are: 1. Do dope work; 2. Deliver great service; 3. Tell your story; and 4. Focus on the big picture. If you’re too busy fulfilling orders or servicing customers and can’t be bothered to keep up with industry trends and market shifts, you’re destined to go the way of the Dodo (Blockbuster, Nokia, Xerox) and become extinct or obsolete. So always make time to know what’s going on in your industry, understand the trends and pay attention to how they may affect your brand.
- Big Data Energy
Big Data is neither a boogeyman nor the holy grail. However, if used properly, it can lend insight into what your customers want and need and how you can deliver it to them. The best way to find out more about your customers is to simply ask them. However, depending on the size, type and scope of your business, this isn’t always practical. If that’s the case, the next best thing is to create a survey to see what they think about your brand, your services and your products; and if your customer is another business, ask for their thoughts about the industry at-large.
A great tool to help you collect and analyze data is Google Analytics. This resource allows you to track the traffic coming to your website and can offer insight into how your customers interact with your brand by showing you how long visitors spend on your website, their geographic distribution and how they landed on your site. Plus, it’s free!
Another great tool is Google Trends. Google Trends allows you to learn about the search terms your potential customers are using. This tool will offer data about the popularity of certain search terms and even offer you a graphic on how it and related search terms and topics have changed over time. What people type into Google can tell you a lot about their needs.
- Remove Your Ego from the Equation
Many a business, small, big and in between, have met their demise because pride and arrogance prevented them from making the best decision. When the customers, data and industry tell you to go left, don’t go right simply because it makes you more comfortable. Go left because it’s supported by the evidence and it’s what a successful business would do. Pride will have you selling products no one wants and offering services no one is interested in, at price points with no basis in reality. Be willing to make the necessary changes.
- Dare to be Great & Different
If you’ve been in business for more than a couple years, chances are you’ve had more than a modicum of success. According to the Small Business Administration, approximately one-third of small businesses fail within the first 2 years. This level of success can lead to complacency and land you in a rut. Look around at your competition and ask yourself, “What makes my company different?” If you can’t come up with an answer beyond your name, logo, or domain name, you need to make some changes. Find something that sets you apart from the other companies in your industry upon which you can hang your hat. It’s not enough to sell great tasting cupcakes if 10 other bakeries within 10 miles are doing the same thing. But if you offer “Free Taste Fridays” where customers get to sample new flavors, or a free cupcake when you buy a dozen, that can attract attention and new customers.
Running a small business is really hard work. The least you can do is try to enjoy it. When you stop enjoying the hustle, that’s a big red flag that it’s time to make a change. If the work isn’t challenging, motivating, or exciting it could leach into your brand. Don’t be afraid to periodically take a step back to see what you’re doing, ask why you’re doing it and determine if you can do more, or better yet, do it better.
In conclusion, change is inevitable and is an integral part of success. Don’t’ be afraid to pivot.