It all starts with a vision. The colors are fuzzy at first -- 32-bit at best -- and then over time, they turn into blazing strong images. You can see yourself leading a large company with a constant flow of new clients and a bank account to finally support those wild dreams. You see yourself fulfilling a need in the market that no one has ever dared to go, but you were the brave one and here you are, disrupting the industry like no other.
But then one day, it begins to fray at the seams. Maybe you were too ahead of your time or maybe your market wasn't the complete right fit. Eventually, you are forced to face the truth: alter the vision or suffer the consequences.
To start, know that pivoting is not a bad thing. It's a brave recognition that you are open-minded to change and new beginnings. You're not letting go of your dream, you're making it better. How do you know if it's time to pivot and how do you do it?
Your product blends in with your competitors.
Ben Davis, founder of edge and data decision software company Phizzle, says it best:
"If you want to be at the top, you not only have to be first, but you have to granularly define the category of which you exist. If you don't do that, you have no chance of owning your industry."
There are a lot of products out there in the same space and at some point, it feels like they are just creating a lot of the same noise. How will you stand out from the rest? How can you contribute more positively to society? Is there a niche you can focus on that no one else has? It feels crowded these days, but remember that in order to be a leader and a game changer, you have to think beyond.
You're floating, not thriving.
Sometimes, you just have to look at the bottom line. Are you profitable? Are you a healthy company? Are you comfortable taking a vacation and leaving the company in an executive's hands? If the answer is no, it's time to change. The changes may be small but if you have been stuck in a rut for a long time, it's time to think bigger.
Davis, who recently went through his own pivot from clients in the sports industry to the IOT space, has this piece of advice:
"We weren't a healthy company. Making the shift was fairly straightforward. Make the shift or die. We did it to survive."
It's not an easy thing to admit. It's terribly hard. It can make any founder feel like they've failed. The key to a successful pivot is to define and change perspective. What is success to you? Instead of viewing a pivot as a letdown, view it as the opportunity to create change with an already existing platform.
Once you decide to pivot, get everyone on board.
And if they're not on board, then find a team who is. I know, easier said than done.
When Davis first wanted to pivot, he was met with resistance from certain team members. The opposition led the pivot to occur at a later time that he retrospectively wishes didn't get delayed. He continues with a few more words of wisdom:
"When you've invested so much time into one category, it's important to have the kind of culture where people are open and willing to run with you in this new direction."
At the end of the day, have people who are on your side with this change. The last thing you want is ill-hearted opposition to innovation.
Go for it.
Once you've decided to pivot, remember that there's nothing to it but just to do it. Commit to the idea, believe in it wholeheartedly, and allow yourself to embrace the change.