Pivoting or Flailing?

So maybe your business is up and running, but you are struggling to get traction with your first product or service. You might be considering pivoting the focus to another product or service where you think there might be a better business opportunity. The question is are you pivoting or flailing?

A pivot is a well-thought-out decision to abandon a prior business focus and pursue a new opportunity. This usually means leaving your old focus entirely and shifting your resources to something different. A pivot usually happens after you have seen something with your customers or business that makes it clear that there is a new, better market to pursue. Typically, you have dabbled in this new solution and have seen some early success that justifies the change.

There are tons of examples of pivots that have led to spectacular success. Instagram started out as Burbn, a location-based check-in app, and you know how well that pivot went. Twitch started as Justin.tv with a broad streaming focus before focusing on gaming and selling to Amazon. A pivot done right can save your startup and propel you to new heights.

When is a pivot not a pivot? If you are just grasping at straws to try and find product market fit, that isn’t a pivot. Trying lots of stuff with no customer validation or traction isn’t a pivot, it’s desperation. I should know, I got there with a high school sports startup that I ran for over a year. We started as a tech company offering a service for youth sports teams to rent gyms and fields. When it was clear that wasn’t going to work, we changed direction and built a media company covering high school sports. That didn’t produce revenue either, so we started hosting our own basketball tournaments and camps, which also lost money. All of this amounted to nothing, and we ended up shutting the company down.

Don’t confuse these types of wild shifts as pivots, we were just flailing around. If you look at your own business and see evidence that you are doing the same, then my unpleasant advice for you today is that you probably need to shut it down too. Flailing around searching for a business model is not pivoting and is not likely to get you to the right place. It’s OK to have a hack-a-thon type approach to exploring product or service ideas but understand that you are in that infancy stage and accept that you are not really a business just yet.

Thanks for reading today’s post, I hope this assists you in evaluating your current business status and spurs you to act if things are not quite working out.



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