Have you pivoted lately? If not, you should probably be thinking about it. Yes, a proactive pivot. Why? Because you’ve heard that old phrase: In startup, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. A lesser known but more actionable phrase is: If you’re not changing, you’re not growing.
A pivot is when a business changes their overarching strategy quickly and dramatically. Traditionally, a pivot is seen as a cause for concern, maybe a last-gasp hack at reinventing a lagging business as its runway contracts.
The desperation pivot happens, of course, and when it does, it gets headlines. But the pivot-or-die scenario is relatively rare in the startup world, especially when you consider the vast number of proactive strategy changes that happen in any successful startup lifecycle.
Here’s a rundown of the most beneficial proactive pivots I’ve been through as a founder, as executive management, and as an advisor over the last 20 years. I’ll start with the big, rare ones and follow through to the smaller, more frequent ones that every startup should be thinking about.
The Moonshot Pivot
To set the tone for positive proactive pivots, let’s start with what should be the final pivot in any startup lifecycle, the one that actually takes the startup out of startup.
At my current startup, Spiffy, we just closed a $10 million fundraise to make sharp, but not sudden, changes to our market strategy.
We started out as a mobile car wash company, with a secret sauce of an app and backend that allowed us to maximize all the things our customers wanted without straining our margins or our workforce. We had challenges, of course — travel logistics, scheduling gaps, margins on low-end services, and a bunch more.
Like any good startup, we started looking for ways to turn those challenges into opportunities. Long story short, we found most of our answers in our small-but-quickly-growing fleet business. With some research and experimentation, we realized that there were even more opportunities in fleet management — massive opportunities we hadn’t even thought about but were not far from being able to exploit.
But we didn’t want to abandon our current business, which we still wholeheartedly…