The Right Way to Pivot
It seems like “pivot” was the operative work of 2020 and 2021 so far. In the face of such unique challenges, companies and people alike had to change—and change fast. I saw firsthand how creative and adaptable businesses and their leaders were forced to become overnight.
However, the ability to pivot extends beyond the pandemic. As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. So, with that being said, it’s important to understand how to pivot, and to pivot in the proper ways.
On the “Why ‘Yes’ Culture is a Big No” episode of the Making Bank podcast, guest Dave McKeown discusses the correct ways that businesses can pivot easily in times of change. Only thing is, it might not be what you think.
The Dangers of “Yes” Culture
Before we delve into how to pivot, we must first talk about “yes” culture. “Yes” culture describes that process by which an entrepreneur or a company says yes to opportunities before figuring out how they are going to deliver. In many ways, the “yes” culture defines the startup: an eager group of people willing to jump at their first big opportunity. Usually, the entrepreneur will say yes to a big arrangement before they’ve figured out how to deliver on their promises. It can be exciting to have that first big opportunity in front of you. Especially as a young or new entrepreneur, you can’t necessarily be that picky about what clients, business and opportunities you take on.
So, for startups, the yes culture can help you launch. It can help pull you out of the weeds and set you on the path to success. Yet it’s not sustainable—and many mid-sized companies still operate with a “yes” culture mentality.
Slipping Up and Burning Out
One of the biggest reasons why “yes” culture is not sustainable is that it can burn through you, your people, and your resources. Like I said, it can be an exciting environment to be in, full of optimism and high stakes. However, it can also be exhausting. See, what follows the initial “yes” is the scramble to find the answers on your end so you can deliver to your clients. The adrenaline may keep you going through long days and late nights. You may even find your solutions on time and deliver a polished product or service to your client. That initial win may encourage you to keep this process.
However, the adrenaline will wear off. You and your team will find yourselves constantly scrambling, working even longer days and later nights as you cobble together a solution. Eventually, you and your team will either slip up or burn out. Probably both.
So how does all of this relate to pivoting? Sometimes, “yes” culture can get conflated with pivoting. People may see that initial yes and assume that that company can pivot quickly.
Here’s the thing that guest Dave McKeown identified: making a decision quickly is not the same thing as pivoting.
Sounds crazy, right? Isn’t that the definition of pivoting? The ability to decide quickly. Well, Dave explains it further. Anyone can make a decision quickly. Not everyone can deliver well. Ultimately, it doesn’t how much pivoting you’ve done if your company is pushing out a bad product.
Instead, Dave explains that the agility of a company is defined by their ability to deliver well and deliver fast. It is still possible to deliver well and fast, but first you must solidify your processes. The problem with “yes” culture is that it doesn’t leave room for other systems within your company to thrive.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur looking to find scalable, sustainable change, step back and examine your processes. Is there a better, smoother way to do things? Is there a way to reduce stress and errors among your team? Even though the examination may take time, it will save you time later down the road. If you can systematize the way you do things, you will notice the results. That way, no matter who works for you and for how long, the company will keep chugging away, undisturbed.
Additionally—and more importantly—if you can nail down your system then you will be ready for your first big opportunity. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes slowing down allows for necessary growth. If you can solidify the core of your company, your mission, and your processes, then you can remain strong in times of change.
Anyone can say yes. Not everyone can deliver well and fast. The agility of your company will show with your ability to produce. The yes may hook a client, but your product will keep them—and keep you going. After all, what’s a company if it can’t deliver?