This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
More often than not, the rhetoric surrounding business owners is one of staying the course and dodging curveballs thrown at you on your way to a set goal. However, there is another school of thought that encourages a more fluid approach, where preconceptions about business success and direction are dropped in favour of the freedom to pivot through critical objectivity. In fact, knowing when to pivot can often be more important than having the perfect idea from the start (which few are right out of the gates).
A pivot is a substantive change to one or more components of your business model, but it's not an excuse for a lack of a coherent strategy or a lack of impulse control. From performance metrics and market feedback to the general mood of the office, there are several things to consider when deciding whether to stay the course or head in a new direction.
Preconceptions of Success Success is subjective, first and foremost. Many businesses forge ahead believing the market is dying for the product they're about to introduce, only to find that the target audience isn't interested after all. So set smaller, more tangible goals to monitor your direction and progress. If you set your sights too far out you may find yourself on a tangent, and too far removed from your core business to successfully change direction. Setting smaller, short-term goals provides more opportunity to assess the progress of your business and ensure you're achieving your projected results. Falling short of these goals is an indicator that you might need to pivot.
Once you've determined a new direction for your business, recalibrate your goals, both short and long-term, and set clear milestones to measure your progress. Monitoring progress once on a new path has been set, can help reinforce the importance of your decision. Keep in mind, there is never a "perfect" time to take the first step towards change. Seizing the opportunity to pivot your business in a more successful direction may only be an option for a short period of time so be willing to take the risk for a chance at the reward.
Are competitors doing it better?
We launched a new service two years ago, having identified the consumer-to-small business payment space as the next logical step toward replacing cash transaction and a competitive space in which our business could operate. However, even after initial success on-boarding merchants and creating a seamless and viable payment method, the stiff competition alongside tech-giants like Square and PayPal led us to pivot. By pivoting, we re-focused nTrust on its roots as a peer-to-peer global money transfer service, this gave us a competitive edge by allowing users to send and receive money instantly and freely within and from Canada.
This is a great example of recognizing the need to shift once a business has launched. While our initial business model was backed by research and built on strong foundations, we only fully recognized the limitations created by our competitors once we had launched. Having a more fluid approach allowed us to pivot our direction and set us on a more viable and profitable course.
Know when to swallow your pride As any business owner knows, separating business decisions from personal biases can be difficult. When you build a business from the ground up, your personal investment in it and your ego can make it difficult to recognize the need for change. In order to succeed, you need to be willing to listen to constructive feedback and recognize when a change is needed. Remember, pivoting is a step to success, not recognition of failure.
Talk to the people who work on the ground of your business. Employees on the front lines are an invaluable resource that can provide crucial information about what is working and what isn't. Consider this feedback when discussing your short and long-term goals and you may realize a change is not only beneficial, but necessary. Reach out to trusted advisors, business partners, or mentors to get unbiased feedback on your business' strengths and areas for improvement. Trying to do it better than someone else is not always more beneficial than trying to do it different so know when to ask for advice or feedback from those around you.
Bracing for change Your team is your foundation. So, surround yourself with people who are adaptable and respond well to change – this skill set is invaluable. Having a team that has the ability to deal with rapid changes and uncertainties is critical, especially when you're faced with the prospect of pivoting. But even more importantly, ask yourself if you possess those same skills – your team will look to you for guidance during this time, and the way you lead them through it could determine where your business lands during the transition.
Rod Hsu (@) is the President of online and mobile money transfer platform, nTrust. Using nTrust, members can send money to friends, cash out to their bank account, spend money through their phone, or load funds to a prepaid card instantly.