The terms “Flogging a dead horse” and “Success is only just around the corner” spring to mind when talking about this concept, articulated by Eric Ries in his New York bestseller “The Lean Startup”.
In your business as well as your everyday life, how do you know when to “give up”? Or, if you do change direction or quit, were you JUST about to make that breakthrough or success you worked so hard for? What if you are achieving moderate success and therefore if you quit it would prove embarrassing or would lose you the moderate income you are used to. What if, on the surface, you are highly successful, but actually you are unhappy, stressed and working 60 hours per week just to keep the ‘success’ going.
When do you Pivot? And when do you Persevere?
What does it mean to pivot? To pivot is to change direction, drop something that isn’t working, and take one area or your whole business in a different direction. Most of the time you would take some of the past version with you. Sometimes you lose the past version altogether.
A great example is a tech company started by Dan Carroll, a well-known name in silicon valley, in 2007. In it’s original form it was called “kaChing” and was a online “fantasy league” for amateur investors, designed to spot good investors. They built a sophisticated system, but customers found the concept confusing and didn’t buy in. The team decided they couldn’t persevere as it existed and decided to celebrate what had been achieved up to this date, but make a pivot. They abandoned the gaming concept and instead focused on creating a platform for amateur investors. On the surface, the pivot seemed quite dramatic, a new company name, new branding and discarding a lot of the system that they had built, but underneath a surprising amount stayed the same. What worked in the system became the core that everything new was built around. The company (now called Wealthfront) is now a leader in the field.
If the team hadn’t had started in the first place they would never have had the knowledge and core system that they then built upon.
Another example in The Lean Startup is the online Voters platform Votizen. It took 4 huge pivots to drag it to the success that founder and CEO David Binetti had visioned, each pivot building on the previous versions successes.
The interesting fact is that, every time he decided to pivot, it took less time than his last pivot. Of the 4 major pivots, the first took 12 months, the second six months, the third took four months and the last pivot took only a month to put into place.
This can be attributed to 2 things. Firstly, the structure and business allowed for a pivot and adapted easier each time. Each change built upon the things that were great about the business and discarded the things that didn’t work. With each pivot there was less to discard and more opportunity to build on what worked.
The second observation is that, the decisions became easier to make, as the decision to pivot had been made previously. The team even brought the ‘pivot or persevere’ concept into their strategic meetings, something that Eric Reis recommends that every business do.
The dictionary’s definition of perseverance is “doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”.
A client of mine regularly pivots in her business and on reflection feels that she may have recently made too many. She feels compelled to pivot as she is haunted by the alternative of persevering.
Her dad had a 30-year career working for the same company, with the promise of becoming the first person ever to go from being the apprentice to a director in the 100 year history of the company. After years of blood sweat and tears his final promotion was due. He prepared to become director and enjoy has last years with the company before retiring. The board of directors then decided to promote the boss’s son instead. His hopes, as well as his pride was completely crushed and my client is haunted by the memory of the only time she’d ever seen him break down in tears.
Years of persevering did not bring him to where he wanted to be and the worst thing was that he had no control over the future he’d planned for himself.
What happened to him didn’t have to force him to make a pivot in his life; he could have continued to work for that company. Maybe he might have eventually got the directors role that he was promised. But the pivot he made took his life in a better direction than he could ever have imagined.
An entrepreneur approached him to work as partners. With his engineering background and keen project management skills they start a competing firm. I’m sure you will agree that someone that has been an employee for 30 years starting a business of his own is completely daunting, but he partnered up with the right person. He pivoted at completely the right time, not through choice but nevertheless formed part of the team that, after a couple of pivots of their own, built a company that now turns over in excess of £2million per year. He now has the directorship that he wanted and even better, is working hard for his own company, not someone else’s.
The unplanned pivot was the best thing that could have happened to him. How did this happen? Because his new partner heard that he hadn’t got a promotion and saw it as a perfect time to approach him. This is a perfect example of taking what is good from the previous version and leaving behind what didn’t work, which in his case was the company itself!
How does this translate into our personal success? I’d like you to take these 2 steps, in your personal or business life if you like. Take 10 minutes to think about your answers, write them down and build your findings into your plan for success. Just by being aware, will set your subconscious mind the task of resolving any issues holding you back.
1. Are you a pivot-er or a persevere-er?
Take a moment to think about some pivots and perseverance’s that have led you closer to success, or away from success. Think about how you could have changes your thinking to get a better outcome.
[A classic perseverance is staying in a marriage for too long, out of fear that you will be more unhappy out of it that you are miserable in it!]
I’d like you to think about your life or business, what’s holding you back from that next step of success. What is stopping you? Is it your thinking? What’s the ‘barrier’? Did something spring into your mind while reading this article? That’s probably what your unconscious mind needs to be analysed further.
2. Write down 2 things that are holding you back you right now and then ask yourself the question – Pivot or Persevere?
What we can take from this silicon valley concept:
1. If we want to do something, we need to make a start. Imperfect action will teach you more than no action ever will.
2. It’s not a failure if we have strategically decided to pivot! Start making the changes needed and each time it will be less painful and achieve more in less time.
3. Its ok to pivot and its equally ok to persevere, we just need to know our reasons for doing so.