Learn How to Pivot Your Business Successfully in 4 Steps


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From competing as an internationally ranked tennis player to working at Microsoft to striking out on my own entrepreneurial path, I’ve thought a lot about what it takes to win. For me, success — both on and off the court — isn’t about developing a rabid fan base, massive muscles or an enviable win-loss ratio any more than endlessly stockpiling investors and business resources.

Instead, the most important predictor of victory is the ability to pivot. In sports, pivoting helps competitors make the most of the situation at hand. When a tennis ball comes flying toward you at 120 miles per hour, you need to make a split-second decision about how you’re going to deal with it. So much of that decision must be informed by your observations. At what angle is the ball traveling, and how can you change the orientation of your body to make the most of the situation?

The same rules apply when it comes to success in business, especially in the volatile environment we’re experiencing now. When the market shifts, you need to be prepared to adjust with it. While practice makes perfect, here are a few methods I’ve developed over the years to pivot in healthy, innovative ways.

Related: A Well-Planned Company Pivot Can Save Your Business

Committing to your vision

Before you can physically pivot, you need to be able to see the direction from which opportunities are approaching and determine whether or not you’re in the right position to take advantage of them. And to be perfectly honest, this is not only the first step, but it’s also the most difficult.

Determining whether or not a change is necessary requires a combination of knowledge and attention to detail. When I first thought about striking out on my own, I knew I had a winning idea. I did the research, took time to understand the market and put together a plan for how to achieve my goals. I was ready to hit that ace — in theory.

Oftentimes, you’re not the only one who needs convincing, however. When I was contemplating leaving my comfortable job to follow my entrepreneurial dream, my family was worried. They were extremely proud of the position to which I’d risen in the ranks of the global powerhouse that is Microsoft. No one in our family had made the type of entrepreneurial course change I was contemplating, so it was hard to imagine. To help others understand your plan, share all that research you used to determine whether a pivot would be necessary. It might take them a little time to get on board, but that’s okay; you’ve got work to do in the meantime.

Taking the plunge

When you see a professional tennis player pivot, it looks like one smooth motion. But it’s actually a wave of tiny changes, from wrist rotations to stance shifts, that all come together to make for a successful move. The grace of the movement, as well as its power to change the trajectory of the ball and game, depends on these steps coming in the right order so each one supports and makes space for the next.

Whether in tennis or business, the trick to making this work is to break big moves into bite-size pieces. You need a complete plan for how every part of your business is going to shift to support the entirety of the change, as well as an understanding of how each of those small movements will make way for the next. What resources do you need? What activities can you stop so you can refocus energy where it’s needed most? Whose insights will be most helpful for determining the next step? Once you’ve determined the flow of all these small changes, setting them into motion will feel second nature.

Following through

It’s tempting to hedge your bets, especially in these uncertain times. It’s natural to ask, “What if it doesn’t work?” But when you pivot halfheartedly, you end up not really moving at all.

Even though it’s made up of a slew of tiny shifts, the pivot as a whole is a dramatic move. By committing to your choice, you’re able to bring all your strength into the swing and make it truly powerful. Just remember: You’ve noticed the need for change, you’ve done your research and you’ve set the process in motion. Now all you have to do is put your heart into it.

There’s also a nice side effect when you infuse the power of follow-through into your swing: It brings others along with you. By leading with confidence and tenacity, your team will be excited to follow you into unknown territory.

Related: Success Begins With Cultivating the Right Attitude

Flexing new skills on repeat

Not every pivot is going to work out exactly as planned. I had my fair share of unexpected turns after I founded my company. I’d envisioned it as a travel planning startup, but a couple of years later, we pivoted to focus on virtual travel. Then I realized we needed to pivot again to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the burgeoning consumer insights space. Today I’m proud to lead the fastest-growing private software company in Illinois, but that never would have happened if I didn’t give myself the permission to change course multiple times.

The thing is, every time you pivot, you get better at it. You’re more prepared and less apprehensive because you know that if it doesn’t work, you can always pivot again.


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