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“I don’t want to ‘pivot’!”

The term ‘pivot’ has become a bit of a buzzword in business circles recently and refers to a fairly significant and transformational change to your business.

A pivot is often intended to help your business recover from some tough times, fierce competition or from any other reasons (such as COVID-19) that make your original business unsustainable – few business owners pivot just for the sake of it. And pivots are fairly common – research shows that up to two thirds of businesses need to pivot at some point in time.

We’ve all pretty much accepted now that the pandemic will unfortunately have a longer-lasting impact than originally expected. And whilst there is no doubt that many businesses will need to pivot to survive through the painful economic impacts of COVID-19, and then be ready to grow again in a new and different business environment, we really need to talk about the word ‘pivot’.

Pivot as a business term has some fairly aggressive and masculine feelings associated with it and our recent discussions with women business owners have shown some feel quite uncomfortable with the use of the actual word ‘pivot’ as they work to adapt their businesses.

As a business term it’s subtly laced with uncomfortable and combative macho undertones related to speed, confrontation and harsh decisions. Quite simply, as a business strategy just now, ‘to pivot’ just doesn’t feel right for some women. As one woman business owner bemoaned to us:

“Pivot? Pivot?! I don’t want to ‘pivot’! I just want to adapt.”

So, when people are saying to you that you need to pivot, you don’t have to. But you may need to ‘adapt’. Which really means one and the same thing, it’s just that as a woman in business you may feel more comfortable and confident ‘adapting’ rather than ‘pivoting’. And all you are doing is taking time to assess and change the direction of your business, if you need to.

Pause. Adapt. Restart.

Take a little time to pause and reflect. Take some more time to repurpose and change what you need to so you can adapt your business. And then restart as soon as you can.

It can be hard to be creative and come up with innovative solutions to adapt your business at any time.  And it might be even harder for you during COVID-19 to be resourceful and think creatively – you are juggling so many other things in life and work in order to simply survive and get through this stressful time. So don’t worry too much if the creative juices aren’t flowing properly for you – relax, they will come – and the new ideas for adapting may come at quite unexpected times and from unusual angles.

Don’t try to adapt in isolation – make sure you reach out remotely to your network of colleagues, staff, advisers, mentors and yes, your customers too, for insights as to how to adapt your business. There are a lot of useful resources available at Business Gateway and the enterprise agencies – start here.

And if you don’t yet have a group of trusted people that you can discuss your business with, get in touch and we may be able to signpost or help you.

Now is the time to adapt (not pivot!) and it’s certainly not time to quit. Deep down you know you have much more left to give and much more growing to do.  And women business owners everywhere need empathetic role models and leaders just like you stepping up to inspire us all.

For the moment, here are some brief pointers that may help you start thinking about how to go about ‘adapting’ your business:

  • Start by doing a SWOT analysis to think through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business
  • Ask yourself probing questions in the following three key areas of your business:
  1. Value Proposition:What value do you deliver with your product or service? What unmet needs could you fulfil? What different solutions can you create? What new value can you create from what you already have? Can you make your product a service or, vice versa, can you make your service a product?
  2. Value Networks:How do you deliver and make money from your product or service? Can you find new ways to deliver your products? Can you deliver through trusted partners instead? What new products and services can you make with what you already have? Can you find different ways to get paid e.g. subscriptions?
  3. Target Customers:Who receives and benefits from what you provide? Can you find new customers? Who else could use your products? Can you reposition your product and services with existing customers? What could you do by partnering up with other businesses? Can you deliver more products and services locally?
  • Gather all the ideas together and do a sanity check. Some might be downright rubbish, some might need a bit more research and work. This is all entirely to be expected during the creative process. Narrow your list of ideas down based on some selection criteria (e.g. speed, cost, time to market) and select the best option. Don’t forget to tune into your gut intuition!
  • Get going quickly and cheaply. You are not looking for perfection, you are looking to get going. Right now, a bit bumpy, not-so-pretty and fast and is better than the perfect product or service that takes forever to get out there.
  • Keep asking yourself and your network smart questions and be really open to constructive challenge from everyone around you – don’t get defensive and don’t get protective about your ideas.
  • You’ll need to be a bit bolder in your thinking, accept that some things might feel quite uncomfortable for a while and that you will get things wrong. But that’s ok. Everyone else is in the same boat! But if you act decisively and confidently you will get you and your business to a safer and better place sooner.


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Womens Business Centre
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