Making a Real Pivot

Very few companies (and even startups) ever make a real pivot. That is, a significant shift towards something that will be very counter-intuitive or even contrary to what history has proven for the existing context and culture of a company in the past.

Most of the time a pivot is a last-ditch effort to actualize some of the invested resources into the company – to leverage or liquidate assets and salvage something (anything) in what is left of the original venture.

This most oftentimes happens when a company has shown no growth, no traction, and no clear “win” scenario and so the leaders of the team and organization as well as with the investors decide to sell off existing assets, clear house of excess human resources, and head in an entirely different direction.

Sometimes this works and sometimes it’s nothing more than a Hail Mary pass into a sea of uncertainty. The result, if history proves to be true, is typically bad for the company as morale and momentum can be at an all-time low and often times impossible to recover.

But sometimes a company that shows incredible promise and is in a growth period will make a pivot despite their growth trajectory – this is an entirely different approach to building a business and one that requires careful planning, taxing examination, and deep introspection.

It requires, if all the else fail, a whole lot of heart. Real pivots when everything appears to be going well are not for the weak-willed or those that can’t stomach a decent lager. It’s supposed to (and will) grind against your conscience, challenge long-held beliefs and paradigms, and generally shock the living snot out of your audience.

I know this from experience as I’ve recently done it a bit with one of my smaller ventures, Pressgram, a iOS mobile publishing tool. I’ve opted to remove a major part of the mobile application in favor of not only the financial challenges but also the core feature set of the product.

Although there is more passion and excitement around the application and the community as there has ever has been it has not been without anxiety and swallowing a whole lot of risk. We are working harder and smarter, both of them at the same time. Growing startups require that you do both and it’s a necessary requirement in a season of ambiguity.

Real pivots very rarely make sense from the outside-looking-in but I’ll tell you that from where I’m sitting the water is crystal clear. I hope that you’re able to make them when the time comes for your venture (perhaps sooner than you know) and that you’ll more than just survive – you’ll thrive.