“Pivot.” The word has become 2020’s business mantra, but is it really a pivot that small businesses and entrepreneurs need?
Whatever else the new business normal may be, it is characterized by change. At least on the surface, then, pivoting seems like a good strategy. After all, everyone is talking about how businesses have had to pivot to survive these crazy times.
But as a small business consultant and branding expert, this sends up some red flags for me. And it begs the question, is it really a pivot we need?
The problem with pivoting
A popular Facebook meme uses a GIF from the TV series Friends to illustrate how many of us perceive 2020. In the scene we see Chandler and Ross carrying a sofa up a flight of stairs. As they try to get around a tight corner, Ross keeps yelling, “Pivot! Pivot!”
That’s the image most of us have when we talk about pivoting, whether in personal life or business. It’s about sharp turns and big changes. And that’s where I see a potential problem for small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs. When it comes to business, a pivot could very well be too drastic a change.
Why does this matter?
Small business leaders and entrepreneurs are already often accused of changing directions too many times. That “all over the place” feeling is an occupational hazard. Pivoting plays right into that trap because it is reactionary. Every time circumstances change, pivoters head off in a new direction.
Each small or self-employed business has an “optimal direction.” It’s the direction that takes them towards the intersection of what matters to them and is marketable to the world. One of my biggest challenges as a business coach for entrepreneurs is keeping people going in their optimal direction. When an entrepreneur is going towards meaning and marketability, the last thing I want them to do is pivot!
To think we have to pivot innately implies there’s something wrong with who we are at that moment. There isn’t. The circumstances around us have changed. It doesn’t mean the business should become something or someone else.
The mere thought of a pivot can put many business owners in a state of paralysis, feeling it’s too daunting of a task.
Evolving instead of pivoting
There is, however, an alternative to pivoting. It may well be something you are already naturally doing. When you evolve, you start with where you’re at and what you’re already known for. And then you transform it. You grow it. You reframe it. But you don’t wipe the slate clean and head off in an entirely different direction.
A client of mine recently shared a great example of evolving rather than pivoting. Recognizing that she needed to change how she described her services, she switched the term Financial Analysis for Management Analysis. She didn’t make any drastic changes. In fact, she didn’t change her services at all. She simply evolved in her messaging, which now makes it clear that the value she brings goes beyond company finances.
I recently evolved as well, changing how I refer to myself from Brand Message Consultant to Small Business Consultant. I did this after extensive keyword research and SEO analysis showed me no one is searching for Brand Message Consultant. So I embraced an evolution of my title to better fit what people are searching for. It doesn’t change my business model, or what I actually do. It just makes what I do easier for people to find.
Neither I nor my client pivoted in these examples. Far from it. In each case, the work that is being done is exactly the same. The difference is that we are seeing our work more clearly. And that allows us to evolve and make what we do more clear to others.
The energy of evolution
These examples are typical of what really happens for small and self-employed businesses. It’s not about dramatic changes or pivots. It’s about an evolution of what we’ve been doing all along and of who we’ve always been.
Not only is this a better description of what’s going on, but it’s also important on an energetic level. Evolving implies a continuation of where you’ve already been and where you are now. It’s a connecting of the dots, a moving forward in natural transformation. Evolution brings the creative energy of an organic continuum rather than a series of about faces and abrupt turns.
This is an important distinction to safeguard against feeling like you’re all over the place. It’s also a key strategy to help you stay relevant without changing things up too often or too drastically. By focusing on evolving rather than pivoting, you’ll stay true to your optimal direction and avoid confusing those you serve.
The power of support
Businesses are evolving now faster than any time I have ever seen in my 35 years of entrepreneurial leadership. They are changing how they describe what they do, what they call themselves, and even their business names. I invite you, as you consider what changes you may need, to evolve rather than pivot. And that’s where support comes in. Having support from a business coach or a group can help you avoid reacting dramatically to each change. This would be exhausting for you and disastrous for your business because no one would be able to keep up.
Opportunities for your future growth lie in your ability to evolve who you are and what you are already doing. With the right support, you can gain the kind of increasing clarity that is crucial to sustaining your success.