Defining Moments: 4 Things Every CEO Should Know About Pivots

One guarantee in business is that your company will eventually have to pivot. And when the time comes, here are four things to keep in mind.

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Regardless of how established or how successful they are, every single company will undergo a shift. These pivots are essential to progress. But what happens when you fail to change course and miss a defining moment?

Kodak is a great example of what happens when businesses don’t pivot? Kodak failed to keep up with technology introduced by their competitors, and went from being  a Dow Jones company to filing for bankruptcy.

You can only ride the coattails of past successes for so long. If you rest on your laurels and fail to anticipate your  next move, you’re in for a tough lesson. Likewise, if your startup is trying to gain traction, you can’t keep trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

One guarantee in business is that your company will eventually have to pivot. And when the time comes, here are four things to keep in mind:

1. People have a distinct fear of change.

Ever heard of metathesiophobia? While it’s not a household word, several people in your company probably suffer from it. It’s simply a fear of change.

It’s understandable – people are inherently scared when they can’t control the change facing them. In the business world, people are often at the mercy of their boss, upper management, or a board of directors. While these leaders are burdened by thoughts of sustainability and infrastructure, ultimately deciding which direction the company takes.

Most of your employees will look at the overall company structure and think, “This is my role within the team.” That’s only half of the truth. That may be their current place, but that’s not where they’ll always remain.

Smart employees and company leaders know that if you want to succeed, you’ll have to realign yourself several times. In the face of company changes and shifts, it’s important that company leaders clearly communicate the nature of a pivot, and why it’s essential for long-term success. Changing direction will create shifts in organizational roles. Everyone will undergo the change together — and that’s a lot less scary to think about.

2. Employee buy-in is crucial to success.

David Novak from Yum! Brands said he felt he had two roles in his early career: being both chief and cheerleader. But cheerleading is really the wrong analogy – motivating people is essential, but if you try to inspire through bullshit, you lose credibility. And the history of most young businesses is ripe for opportunities to get mired in it.

The average startup pivots 3-5 times within its first 2 years of existence. If your company is on the low end, enduring 3 pivots, then you might be feeding everyone a line to get through the first 2 pivots. If the purpose behind these 2 initial pivots doesn’t match up with the third – and possibly final – pivot, their deductive reasoning will tell them you’re a lying jerk.

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