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Start: Mark Evans

When to switch horses in mid-race Add to ...

In an ideal world, a company's strategic vision unfolds exactly as expected. But what if it doesn't?

What happens when a product or service that should have taken the world by storm gets a lukewarm or, even worse, negative reception? Does it mean wringing your hands and giving up?

In many cases, this is exactly what happens. After all the time and effort to start something new, the reality of having to go back to square one can be daunting.

On the other hand, an optimist (and a diehard entrepreneur) will say that failure is an important and sometimes necessary step toward success.

Rather than being discouraged, some people take it as a challenge to reload strategically and tactically. In other words, if plan A didn't work, there is always plan B.

This means starting from scratch to build something entirely new and different.

This process is often described as a "strategic pivot" - a process that we put the spotlight on in last Monday's column about Sprouter.

When a strategic pivot works, it is a significant achievement because it is not easy to switch horses in mid-race.

Strategic pivots are risky because you need to take a major step backward in the expectations of being able to take two steps forward.

Strategic pivots also mean giving up on an idea that may have involved a large investment in time and money.

So when do you know a strategic pivot is necessary?

In many ways, it is as much an art as a science. At some point, entrepreneurs may come to the realization that, despite all of their best intentions, their plans aren't working. It may be some straightforward clue, such as a lack of sales, or it could be a realization there is too much competition to establish a foothold.

A client of mine recently came to the conclusion that a strategic pivot was necessary even though his company had modest sales and some high-profile customers. He realized there wasn't enough traction from customers to create a large and vibrant business.

Rather than starting from scratch, he decided to take the company's existing technology and apply it in a new way for different kinds of customers.

While it may take several months to determine if the strategic pivot was a smart move, this entrepreneur had no reservations that the status quo was untenable. Like most entrepreneurs, he is excited about the new direction and possibilities, even if means having to back away from his original idea.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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