Updated: Sep 30
Once upon a time...
Sometimes, you realize your venture requires a serious CHANGE. Either your market has been disrupted by others (while you were preoccupied with other issues), or it was never as big as you hoped for, or...
Anyway, your product is simply not growing as you hoped it to.
Something went wrong, hopefully not as horribly as in the movie, but enough to get you startled: How did we come to this? And what do we do next?
These questions are pressing, if only because of your cashflow, team's morale, and investors' concerns.
Something must be done - NOW.
This is where the Pivot Process kicks in: You assemble your team: employees, consultants, management, and stakeholders - for a series of candid meetings and some soul searching.
This is no kid's game, either: Time, money, managerial focus, and your reputation, are all on the line, and the number of misses is ever so limited.
"Ask most entrepreneurs who have decided to pivot and they will tell you that they wish they had made the decision sooner". Eric Reis, The Lean Startup
Pivoting can be FUN!...
OK, so we're playing for real money, but that doesn't mean we cannot enjoy the process. On the contrary, "research has shown" that stress can take you so far - One needs to relax in order to keep performance at peak level, especially over a prolonged period of time.
This is more than just tongue-in-cheek advice: Stress dissipates fast and wide, and it is within your power to keep it playful, loose, and enjoyable. People will rise to the challenge, and there's nothing like a playful atmosphere to keep them creative and cooperative.
Planning for pivot
First, let us analyze what we did well and what went wrong. We then identify what are the assets that we gained so far.
Your mileage (and topics) may vary, but here is a sample list for critical thinking:
Do we have parts of the technology that are still appealing?
Can they be reused, converted?
And what should we do with the rest?
What are the alternatives our presumed customers use?
Which competitors are currently winning?
Why it they who are winning, rather than us? Maybe because of their offering, pricing, distribution?
Business Model and Go To Market
Our technology is embodied by a product - are the features right to our customers' needs?
Can our customers easily access our product / service?
Is it priced correctly?
Is it distributed through the right channels?
Are distributors optimally incentivized?
A chorus of (sometimes contradicting) voices in your ears, it's now your task to pick and choose: Some inputs may be more valid than others, and remember that uncertainty is inherent in this process. However, decisions must - and will - be made.
Prepare for some tough decisions. No sentiments have place here - you're fighting for the business:
Product lines may be culled, distributors and paying customers abandoned, technology stacks replaced...
Every step, though, bears risks, incurs costs, and it's your responsibility to make a call.
Note, however, that you are seldom alone on this journey: Decisions must reach approval and agreement with your employees, co-founders, peers.
Build, Measure, Learn
Now is the time to go it lean. Test the water by taking little tiny steps, one at a time, however bold. Then test the results at each stage: Do you receive the response you expected? If so, scale up, increase your efforts.
Do you get negative feedback? or a lukewarm response? Time to rethink and change. You will have the advantage, though, of past market exposure. Use it to get elaborate opinion on your new offering.
Use your prior knowledge, your newly collected KPIs, to plot your new roadmap:
How far will the new offering and markets take you?
When would you measure results to see if you took the right decisions?
Do the numbers compute in a fresh new way?
No end to that, really... Every feature, major release, new segment or target geography will force you to adapt to new conditions, face new competitors, new limitations. It is almost certain you are to encounter missteps. You will then have to deploy the pivoting process all over again, limited in scope or all encompassing.
On the other hand, you could have chosen not to take that long, winding road in the first place ;-)
We have pushed customers to the digital realm, developed SaaS distribution and delivery mode...
Interested in the discussion? Join the meetup:
TheRoad: Accelerating technology startups