Push or pivot?

By Allon Raiz

Sometimes choosing the easier option is not the smartest option in the long run.

“Pivot” is a word that’s certainly been making the rounds in entrepreneurship circles over the last couple of years. It was probably given a lot of momentum by the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries which focuses on learning what your customers really want and continuously testing your vision, adapting it and adjusting it before it’s too late.

Although I believe it’s important that entrepreneurs have the ability and desire to pivot, the unintended consequence is that entrepreneurs may choose to pivot from plan A to plan B (which may be perceived as the easier route) instead of pushing forward in challenging times. Very often success on the current trajectory may be imminent, and opting to pivot might indeed end up being the wrong strategy. So as an entrepreneur, when do you pivot and when do you push?

If you are unsure as to whether you should pivot or push, consider the following:

At which position are you on the product-timing curve?

Ahead of its time

Understand where your product or service is on the product-timing curve. You are more likely to pivot if you feel your product or service is too far “ahead of its time”, or choose to push through if you feel it’s only slightly ahead of its time. For example, if you were the first company to sell cell phones in the country before there was even a cell phone network, then it might be a good idea to pivot and sell other products as well until the ecosystem for cell phones has more fully developed.

Its time

If your product is “on time” and there is wide market acceptance of the product or product category, then I believe it’s always a better strategy to push through, but with more subtle pivots to market niches. We all have cell phones currently, and you could potentially look at new ways of packaging cell phone contracts that you could offer clients, for example, packaging the cell phone with insurance, etc. and this would be considered as subtle pivoting.

Behind the time

If you have the courage to admit that your product or service may be “behind the times” then you definitely need to pivot. For example, if you are selling fax machines in the age of scanners or cell phones which are able to scan and send documents, then the right strategy would be to pivot.

What are your resources?

Being conscious and creative around the resources that you may have at your disposal will determine whether you should push or pivot. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long can I keep pushing before my resources run out?
  • Do I have the internal resources required to pivot in the direction where I think I might need to shift?

You have to evaluate what resources you have in terms of determining whether you actually have the ability to pivot or not.

Who can I leverage right now?

Evaluate your network and determine who you can leverage to get your product to market quickly and profitably. This will allow you to push through with the existing product or service, but you will ironically also be pivoting your model in doing so. For example, ask who in your network has a distribution channel which you can utilise to get your product widely distributed quickly. You might have to compromise on margin to enable this, but it might just be the right strategy for your business instead of the long time it would take for you to build your own market penetration.

If entrepreneurs always choose to pivot instead of pushing through during challenging times, they are highly likely to remain unsuccessful. Be cognisant of where your business is on the product-timing curve and, based on that, choose whether you are going to pivot or push through, keeping in mind that the easier option is not always the smartest one in the long run.