Business Survival: Pivot or Persevere?

The likelihood of every business going back to their previous “Normal” after the pandemic passes isn’t going to happen.  We’re all being forced to step out of our comfort zones and try things we otherwise would not have attempted.  Probably the biggest example is companies that previously questioned the effectiveness of allowing employees to work remotely from home.  In many cases, they are finding there has been little, if any drop in productivity.   

For pretty much all of us, we’re in uncharted territory. From the “Essentials” to “Non-essentials”, from small businesses to the publicly traded corporations, every business owner and management team is looking both inward and outward at their business in an effort to discern how their business, their employees, their suppliers, and their customers are being impacted by COVID-19 and what they should or shouldn’t do about it.   And, where business models are broken they have to ask: Do we Pivot or Persevere?

Pivot – A pivot usually occurs when a company makes a fundamental change to their business after determining that their product isn’t meeting the needs of their intended market. (Fun example – Play-Doh was originally sold as a wallpaper cleaner before their pivot).

Persevere – Fundamentally the business is viable, the intended market still demands the product or service, there is a temporary condition disrupting the business from functioning.

What should you do?

Under the current mandates due to COVID-19, a lot of business owners are defending their current business models, planting the “Persevere” flag, and choosing to muddle along waiting for an all clear sign.  For many, that might work out, but for others the reality is, the pandemic is exposing an area of their business that was weak, outdated, and overdue for change.  It was already a broken model. The real solution in those situations requires a “Pivot”.

Pivoting is more about re-imagining.   One example would be retail stores that were already struggling due to Amazon and the shift to on-line shopping prior to this pandemic.  If those same stores think their long-term success model is to ride this out until things get “back to normal”.  They are going to be sadly mistaken when all this passes.  

Persevere is about staying the course.  An example of this would be anyone who provides personal services, like hair and nail salons.  The COVID-19 impact has been devastating to their businesses, but their best course of action is to stay the course.  Their model isn’t broken, it is just temporarily interrupted by something beyond their control.   

There are several different types of pivots.  The most common types of pivots include product feature pivots, technology pivots, customer problem pivots, revenue model pivots, and product vs services pivots.  Whether your business needs to pivot or persevere is a discussion you need to have with your team.  

We would encourage you to run every area of your business through this Pivot or Persevere process.  If this pandemic is negatively impacting your business, before you dig in your heels and blame all the challenges on the Coronavirus ask some tough questions.  Get your team involved and challenge each other.  If the end result is Persevere, then all you can do is get lean and wait.  If however, you determine the virus was just the catalyst that exposed a problem, it might be time for a Pivot.

One final comment, we are encouraging all of our clients and followers to check out the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)  if you haven’t already done so.  

As always, we value your comments in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach