"Pivots" come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. How to see a course correction coming.
In the early days, an entrepreneur’s success at raising money and recruiting strategic advisors depends mostly on a grand vision and a business plan that shows how everyone can make a lot of money. But what if that plan isn’t working out as you hoped? What if you see a new opportunity that looks more? How can you tell if you should stay the course or abandon it?
To decide, you’ve first got to overcome two styles of working that can make it hard for you to do a good job of evaluating your own business and sizing up other options:
- Head Down. It’s easy to be so focused on getting to the next milestone that you fail to notice what the market or your competition is doing. This can mean that outside factors force you to make a change. Far better to identify the need for change upfront.
- Idea Love. You are so in love with your idea that you try to do too much, too soon. You ignore the advice of people telling you not to bite off more than you can chew, probably because you don’t fully appreciate how much you can accomplish with a specific amount of money within a specific amount of time. In this case, you may need to change course because you run out of money.
How can entrepreneurs avoid these mistakes?
- Make change a part of your company culture. At first, I found it very difficult to accept and communicate change. I worried that those around me would lose confidence in my ability as a founder, leader, and visionary. It took some time to realize that entrepreneurs are forced to make fundamental decisions relating to their product, solution, business model, and pricing structure all the time. It’s best for all involved if everyone gets used to this, fast.
- Don’t go it alone. The beauty of running your own business is that you really do get to call the shots. Day-to-day, no one’s telling you what to do. The flip side of this is that you need to lean on those around you for guidance, perspective, and yes, coaching. Just because you’re the founder or CEO doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t take advice from a wide range of people – in fact, the opposite is true.
- Leverage & Listen - Leverage your network, advisory board members, and thought leaders in the space to help you challenge your assumptions on a regular basis. You can do this around the water cooler (if you have one) or you can conduct a more structured strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis.
Course corrections happen all the time. The savvy investor understands that business plans change, business models need to be adjusted, and that knowing when to zig or zag is one of the hallmarks of a great entrepreneur.