4 Signs It’s Time to Pivot Your Small Business

4 Signs It’s Time to Pivot Your Small Business

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No matter what you do, things just aren’t working and you just aren’t sure where to go from here. Being a business owner is often stressful enough, but when things start to go sour (or they never really were all that sweet), the stress can be insurmountable.

So what do you do when your business is stagnant and you’re about to throw in the towel?  Some business owners may simply close up show, but that’s not the only options.  Pivoting your business can present the opportunity to redirect your dreams in the hopes of turning a profit.

And while you’ve heard tales of small business that pivoted their way to success, you’re just not sure that’s the right answer for you.  Admitting that things aren’t working isn’t always easy, and the decision to pivot your business can be even more difficult.

If this sounds like your current plight, you’re not alone. Many small businesses, specifically start-ups, find that their original marketing plan just doesn’t work, leaving them with two decisions: closing up shop or pivoting.

This, of course, leads to the ever looming questions: is it time to pivot?

Every business is different, but here are some indicators it may be time to pivot.

1. Negative Feedback Keeps Filtering In

Feedback, both negative and positive, can provide the customer- or client-based insights that can turn mediocre businesses into home runs.  And while most companies receive a mix of both positive and negative feedback, if the negatives start to take the lead, it may be time to consider what’s really being said about your business.

Be open to the things your customers are saying, and while you don’t need to take every gripe to heart, if there is a trend, you may have grounds for a monumental shift.

2. Your Market Changed

A market can change for a variety of reasons. Perhaps industry innovation made some of your products or services obsolete. Maybe the customers themselves that changed, and their ability or desire to spend money on your product has been altered. If business is stagnant, or worse, struggling, it may just mean that your client focus needs to shift.

Your pricing may no longer be competitive, you may have a whole segment of customers that are willing to pay more for what you have to offer, or the focal point of your business is no longer enticing to your original customer base.  Regardless of why, the needs of your market can force your hand in the decision to pivot.

3. Customers Are Not Using Your Product as Intended

Sometimes the success of your product lies not within your intended use but within the usage patterns you didn’t quite anticipate.  That was the case for CloverPop, a service originally designed to help make personal life decisions; however, as it turned out, it was business users that got the most from their service. As such (and in the face of abysmal sales), ClopverPop pivoted to harness that functionality and in doing so, they gained a strong audience of business minded followers – a true shift from the personal services they original set out to offer.

4. You & Your Team Are Consistently Frustrated

Scratch that, you’re beyond frustrated. Waking up for work every day has become an increasingly challenging activity, and dread has seeped into most of your waking moments. It’s one thing to occasionally have a bad day, but if decreased or non-existent revenue has created a habitually toxic work environment, there may be fundamental issues with your product or approach.

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How to Start Your Pivot

Admitting it’s time for such a monumental shift in your strategy can be hard enough, but what do you do once you’ve come to terms with that decision?

1. Determine the Real Problem(s)

You may have identified the need to pivot, but where are the precise pain points, and how will a pivot solve them? Review sales, talk to customers, look at key metrics, user/customer statistics, and really start to determine what worked and what didn’t as well as what opportunities exist and where you really need to slam the door shut.

Without determining the fundamental issues that exist, you run the risk of making highly impactful decisions based on only part of the facts, or worse, the wrong facts. Take the time to really delve into the inner workings of your business, specifically your products/services, your target audience, and your strategies.

2. Review & Re-Establish Your Goals

Once you’ve taken a good hard look at, well, everything, it’s time to look back to your original goals and, with your newly found insights. Then you can really start to create new goals and expectations for your business.

This step may seem a bit “dreamy”, but it can help you generate the ideas and concepts necessary for the next stage of the pivoting process (planning). It also can be a welcome change from the frustration and worry that plagued your prior days.

3. Create a Plan

Now that you have know what problems exist ( be they product, customer, or strategy based), and you have some ideas on how you can approach those problems, it’s time to create an action, or business, plan.

The planning process depends entirely on the information and ideas you’ve gathered in the prior steps, specifically, what your pivot looks like.  Is product or service based?  Are you attempting to rebrand in an attempt to attract a different audience? Maybe, your pivot is specific to the pricing structure or the marketing methods you’ve employed up until now.
Regardless, you’ll need to determine any financial requirements you may meet along the way (i.e., do you need new investors?), staffing needs (will your pivot mean a shift in code or the way your site, produce, or service is designed), and a reasonable timeline to prepare for and complete the pivot and roll out your new product, service, or strategy.

4. Communicate With Your Employees

Whether they’ve been besides you from day one or they’re joining your team as part of your pivoting efforts, your employees need to have some insight into the new business plan.  Obviously, they’ll be the ones carrying out a lot of the required tasks.  Further, valuable employees that were part of that frustrated contingency may welcome (or need) the information in order to regain focus and keep their eyes on the “prize”, so to speak.

If your business is suffering but you don’t think it’s time to close the doors, pivoting may represent a promising opportunity.  Take note of the events and reasons that lead to less than desirable performance, and, if pivoting seem likes the right path for you, then make sure to take the time to review the past, set goals for the future, and make the plans that will help you pivot into the future.

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About the Author —

Jennifer is a alum of the University of Denver. While in the graduate program there, she enjoyed spending time identifying ways in which non-profits and small businesses could develop into strong and profitable organizations that while promoting strong community growth. She also enjoys finding unique ways for freelancers and start-up businesses to reach and expand their goals.

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