COVID-19 Update

Business Leaders Must Decide Whether to Pivot—and How Much

With no sign the business world we knew in 2019 and early 2020 is coming back, companies have to figure out if they’re going to change anything.

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There’s opportunity in uncertainty—but you have to be savvy enough to look in the right places to find it.

“There are so many options in a crisis,” said business consultant Tom Stimson in the latest edition of the Intentional Success webinar series this week. “Working through those helps guide us in the next moment. In uncertainty, we see paths we might not have seen before.”

Stimson, who says he’s among those who thrives during a crisis, says it’s important for business leaders to try to focus on some of the controllable variables in their companies and not let the uncontrollable variables consume them in this time of great uncertainty.

Instead of worrying about what might happen next and how long the turmoil might last, executives should instead be thinking about their target customers (even if those are changing during the coronavirus pandemic), their products and services and their overhead expenses.

Business leaders must also think and focus on their minimal acceptable margins, their business models (and whether it’s staying the same or changing to some degree in the “new normal”) and their decisions, all of which they control themselves.

Pivot

Every business leader must decide how much of a change of direction their company can handle.

Importance of the Pivot

Stimson has talked in the past about going from business survival to stabilization to a time when the company can again thrive. One interim step between stabilization and thriving is pivot, which Stimson says isn’t something every company will do but can help to put it in a position to thrive more quickly.

Survival is akin to self-preservation, says Stimson, while stabilization brings about a temporary state of balance. Thriving involves taking an intentional approach to reestablishing growth or profit, he says. A pivot includes replacing aspects of the business and creating a new strategy or business model.

“Whether you need a pivot is determined by how well you stabilize and how soon you can thrive,” says Stimson. A pivot is permanent, strategic and definitely difficult, he says.

“How much you choose to pivot is based on how much uncertainty your business can handle,” says Stimson. “There’s a long-term chance we’re not going to get back in to the business we were in before so that’s something you have to consider when thinking about whether or not to pivot.”

Related: How to Speed Up Your Business Recovery by Using Key Performance Indicators

Pivots come in a handful of types that have different levels of risks inherent within them, says Stimson. A do-over or relaunch involves making different choices for your business while a strategic pivot involves a focus change, he says.

Companies can also change how they make money by going, for example, from an asset-based rental company to a solutions-based production company, says Stimson. Businesses can also change their stakeholders by divesting, merging or acquiring.

“The good thing about all of this is you can choose your transformation mix,” says Stimson. “You can make your pivot as subtle or extreme as you want it to be.”