It's hard to flip open a newspaper or click on a website without reading about how some founder saved his or her business by pivoting. From Fab.com to Fair Trade USA, this kind of business switcheroo is certainly a hot topic these days. But is it relevant for young entrepreneurs?
In a word: Yes.
First, what does it mean to pivot? To pivot is simply to switch from the original vision of the business to something different. The key is that the new focus is somehow related. According to Forbes.com and YoungEntrepreneur.com columnist Martin Zwilling, the term pivot "is properly used to describe smart start ups that change direction quickly, but stay grounded in what they’ve learned. They keep one foot in the past and place one foot in a new possible future."
We're not talking, then, about a wholesale fruit distributor who suddenly decides to become a clothing designer. That's not a pivot, that's a new venture.
But a wholesale fruit distributor who decides to shift from fruit distribution to a service connecting small-scale fruit growers with gourmet markets has just pivoted.
For young entrepreneurs, pivoting is a strategy that's not only viable and valuable but also, for many, a natural extension of what they've already been doing.
You may have been in school studying business, or design, or any number of other topics. Or perhaps you were traveling. Or working at a family business. Or working in a corporate job. Or looking for a job.
At some point, you decided to pivot. You kept one foot on the past: your expertise, education, experience. And you put the other foot into your new possible future by starting your own business based on your expertise, education and experience.
Pivoting is something you've done as a young entrepreneur, whether you realize it or not.
But that doesn't mean it's easy. Even though switching gears may be natural for you as a young entrepreneur, there are times when it's simply painful. And those times are most likely related to realizing that your baby — a.k.a. your startup, side business — isn't going to make it as planned.
It's tough to let go of your own carefully crafted vision of the future.
But visions are not realities, no matter how well you strategized, researched and funded it. The smart young entrepreneur (that's you, right?) will be able to keep a loose grip on that vision and remain flexible. That way, even if your idea isn't panning out, you'll be open to other elements that are. And then you pivot.
You're not losing the vision; you're adjusting it. That's the point of the pivot. It allows you to gain from what you've already done but not stay stuck in it.