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Running a business forces you to make quick decisions, often with the success of your business hanging in the balance. With a pivot strategy, business owners can address unanticipated challenges and seize lucrative sales opportunities. The type of pivot you take depends on your specific circumstances, including the state of your industry and your company's ability to step in a new direction.

As CEOWORLD Magazine notes, pivoting "isn't about starting from scratch, abandoning what you've already accomplished, or, conversely, making minor tweaks" in your business operations. Instead, it involves taking "what you've learned, the team you've built, and finding a whole new way to utilize them."

Here are six tips to execute the right pivot strategy for your business:

1. Listen to Your Customers

Every business receives negative or unfavorable feedback, sometimes unfairly. But when you consistently encounter comments such as "your product is too costly" or "other products have more suitable features," start paying attention. Don't stubbornly sell something you think your customers want; it's more important to sell them what they say they need.

2. Keep an Eye on the Competition

Competition is a fact of life, and it's important to know what your competitors are doing. Something that used to be a unique, differentiated business offering could now be the norm, allowing competitors to swoop in with a leaner, less costly alternative.

A competitive analysis can help you determine how you're faring against the competition. You can start by:

  • Researching your competitors' websites to learn more about their branding and marketing messages.
  • Following other businesses on social media.
  • Studying the scope and content of rival advertising campaigns.

3. Determine Where Your Business is Headed

Watch for signs of stagnation or burnout, in yourself, among employees and even in customers. Even if you don't know what's at the root of it, consider what changes need to be made. While a systemwide overhaul isn't necessary, The Founder Institute recommends you "take an honest, objective look at your company and identify something that can be revamped."

4. Keep Your Team Informed

Don't announce pivots after the fact let employees know what you intend to do ahead of time. Use the time after the announcement to gather as much feedback as possible, especially from those who regularly interact with customers. Pivoting can be disruptive, even when it's ultimately the best decision, but navigating through the temporary confusion is much more manageable when you have buy-in from your team.

5. Conduct a Test Run

Once you've determined how you want to execute your pivot strategy, create a trial version. Share the prototype of a new product with a select group of loyal customers, or appoint a team of employees to try out a new process. The response you get will help you refine your strategy before it goes into action.

6. Focus on Small Wins

A pivot doesn't mean tossing out everything that's worked before. Instead, focus on what modifications your business should make, how it operates and what it offers to sidestep obstacles you're currently facing.

To set yourself up for success, establish short-term objectives. When you reach a milestone, it's a reason to celebrate and to recognize the team members who made it possible. This creates momentum for greater, long-term accomplishments later on.

The decision to pivot your business should never be taken lightly, nor should you consider it a sign of weakness. Instead, taking a new, thought-out approach demonstrates your renewed commitment to your customers and shows that there's active, engaged leadership willing to confront the realities of the marketplace. Your next opportunity is out there. All you need to do is capitalize on it.

About Author

Lee Polevoi is a veteran freelance business writer specializing in exploring the opportunities and challenges facing small businesses in the U.S. today. A former senior writer for Vistage International (a global membership organization of CEOs), Lee regularly produces articles, white papers, blog posts and more for the diverse small business audience.