When you allow your company to fall into a routine, you may overlook major opportunities. The only way to avoid that is to stay open-minded and keep a lookout for new platforms, projects, and methods, even if your status quo is healthy. My company originally specialized in search optimization and web design. But if we hadn’t looked for opportunities to pivot, we would have missed an incredible growth prospect for our business.
Before we decided to switch, our business was doing OK on paper. We were growing, in terms of both revenue and employees, but ultimately my team, clients, and I were dissatisfied. The typical advice in this situation is to push through the grind, but we wanted to take a different approach. We came across the marketing and sales platform HubSpot and recognized it as a way to delve much deeper into our clients’ needs as opposed to just driving traffic to a pretty site.
We completely switched up our offerings and started providing digital strategy to our existing clients. As a result, we increased our average retainer size seven times over, and our bottom line increased threefold in just seven months. But before you think about pursuing a complete overhaul of your company, it is vitally important to be intentional, agile, and adaptive. Here are the four critical steps I took to make our pivot so successful:
- Test your risk tolerance. The first step to understanding whether a change makes sense for your business is to learn your internal taste for risk. If you realize that your tolerance is very high, you need to figure out ways you can mitigate some of that risk. If it’s low, you need to connect with your trusted collaborators to test out your ideas and validate your assumptions. Having a handle on your own risk state will give you the confidence to experiment and adapt as you need.
When we began our switch, we kept our core business and started integrating and positioning ourselves differently a little more over time. If we had completely gotten rid of our old clients and just gone into the new business, then we would have opened ourselves up to more risk than necessary.
- Embrace your vulnerability. Vulnerability is not your weakness as a leader; it’s your strength. You can’t be everywhere at once, and you can’t know everything about your industry. Opening yourself up to your vulnerability will endear you to your team and allow your employees and collaborators to trust you and to feel more involved.
Be transparent and vulnerable with the uncertainty your company faces, too. You don’t have to be a cheerleader all day long; admitting that the path ahead is unclear can be more effective than pure optimism.
If you find yourself especially hesitant to admit setbacks, then it may be time to look at your culture. Cultivate an environment in which failure is accepted as inevitable by demonstrating that growth can stem from such lapses. Once my organization did that, transparency came much more naturally to my team and I.
- Practice self-awareness. Be aware of your own motivations. We decided to switch because we knew a digital strategy would better help our clients achieve their objectives. Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you remain aware of your reasons and your motivations, your innovations will always be tied to your goals.
Self-awareness should include being mindful of both how and how much you’re working. Many entrepreneurs claim that they became their own bosses so they could dictate their own hours and enjoy better work-life balance. But when asked how many hours they work, entrepreneurs’ answers don’t differ all that much from those of corporate America.
If you discover that you are internalizing stress or seem more tired than usual, gauge your self-awareness and search for the best means to cope. As an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats. Take some breaks, travel somewhere new, or just give yourself a weekend away from your phone. Reset yourself so that your ideas have the time and space to flourish.
- Boost your confidence with planning. Don’t forge ahead into the next 90 days of your business without a plan. Not only might you fail, but you’ll also be more likely to abandon pivoting altogether. Conviction can be tested a lot in a changeover — especially when past work was successful.
Instead of being worried about changing our minds, we created both long- and short-term goals, and you should do the same. Within the first 90 days, decide what you need to get through and achieve. After those 90 days, institute a long-term plan for when you want your pivot to be complete and what should happen afterward — be it a year, two years, or five. This is especially important when you’re changing your business; not everything will go smoothly, and you need to turn all that anxiety and uncertainty into forward motion.
If you constantly seek progress, then the future becomes an adventure. Challenges become opportunities, and employees, recruits, and customers start thinking about your company as an innovator in your industry. But if you’re not intentional about change, your recruitment and business development will be stagnant, and you may find yourself in the complacency trap.
Image Credit: CC by Andy Rogers