What can kill your business? Lack of focus. I have seen it time and time again. Everyone chases the next shiny object in hopes that it will yield a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I have done it myself.
It takes great discipline not to chase shiny objects. There is always a feeling in your gut of “what if?”, especially when you fail.
At the same time, you can’t shut yourself to the outside world. You need to keep aware of things to expose your company to some diversity of thought. There may be ways to take what you are seeing and internalize it into your company to make it better.
There is so much talk about “pivoting” that it seems like every start up has to pivot to be successful. I don’t think pivots are random or radical. It’s taking what you learned from the market, listening and applying it into your business to penetrate a big market.
For example, suppose a startup decides to charge a set dollar amount for their product to the market. They launch. Some in the market pay, but some balk because of the price. A simple pivot might be to change the pricing structure to fit the market.
Change it and see if more people will pay and if your breadth and reach gets bigger. If not, rejigger again. But make the pivots more iterative not radical.
No one can know everything about everything-even if you random sample well before launching.
Sometimes a radical pivot is in order. The startup will know if they keep hearing from the market that they have a good idea but keep running into a stone wall. Maybe they need a new look, or need to try to attack a different market segment with a similar problem. Maybe they need to rethink how they are targeting.
It’s tough to focus when you have a product everyone theoretically could use. When you are hitting that stone wall, you can’t believe that no one buys from you. Darn it, your technology and solution are so great.
But, for some reason you aren’t adding value, otherwise you’d be off and running.
On a way different note, but similar-I started out as an interest rate trader. Traded Eurodollars ($GE_F). Within the Eurodollar pit, I even changed my trading style several times to avoid extinction. Eventually, I ran out of ways to trade and shifted to agricultural products. I was still trading, still doing everything I used to do-but in a different place. Different target market. Once there, my trading evolved as well. I listened to the market and seized opportunities as they came to me.
One trader I know traded for years and years in one pit. One day he walked in and said, “This is my last day on the floor.”. And he left, never to return. He started a company that interfaced with the marketplace but he wasn’t trading. That’s an example of a radical pivot. His new business is wildly successful.
Like I acknowledged, it’s not exactly like a startup but it’s similar.
I like startups that pivot to different segments of the market first. It’s usually the simplest and easiest fix-before scrapping everything to pivot to a different business.
Generally, if you start to make some headway it’s time to Focus. Set small goals that will help you achieve larger goals. If you keep hitting your goals, you are on the right path as long as they align with your broad strategy. As soon as you start to saturate your initial target market, pivot to another one that looks lucrative. Test it out, and if it’s good allocate resources to it.
Focus helps you get places. Consistently pivoting has you going around in circles and will frustrate you and your team.
What pivots have you tried that were successful or unsuccessful?