3 Reasons Why it Might Be Time for a Business Pivot

I'd like to introduce you to an exciting mobile check-in app called Burbn. Instead of simply clicking a button, you take photos of the bar or restaurant, then share them through the app so all of your friends can live vicariously through you. You have that app on your phone, right? You use it almost every day, right? No? Maybe you know it by its new name - Instagram?

That's right. That incredibly popular photo sharing app started out as a check-in app with a twist.  When the team realized that the app was too complicated and that Foursquare was doing it better, they took the part of the app folks liked best - the photo sharing - and made it the main focus. They also renamed the app to something more “camera-y”, an instant telegram or Instagram.

That is what's known in the startup world, as a pivot. Of course, not all pivots work out as well as Burbn. Some companies can't stop pivoting and that’s a bad sign for investors. The trick is knowing when a left turn is the right turn versus a turn down a dead end street.

3 Changes That Could Lead to a Pivot

The Market Has Changed

In the 1980’s, you could make good money selling handmade clothes for Cabbage Patch Kids or tie-dye parachute pants for men. These days. . . not so much. Trends pass, styles change and what’s hot has a tendency to become "not" right after the peak. If your business is based on a certain trend or style, it might be time for a pivot.

Take a trip to the bookstore (if you can find one) and browse the home, celebrity and fashion magazines. If all of the stars are wearing chunky jewelry and you sell only delicate chains, start thinking. If every home magazine is about clean and modern but you specialize in country fussy, start thinking.

This is not to say that you can’t run a business as the rare supplier in a very small niche. But if you want to grow – go full-time even – you have to consider the trends.

Ten years ago, there were four rubber stamp stores within a half hour of my home. Now there are none.


The World Has Changed

Just last week, I found a Polish joke mug in a thrift shop. It was probably from the 70’s when ethnic slurs were common comedy fodder on TV. These days, you’d be much more likely to sell a Polish pride mug than one with the handle on the inside.

We’re not the same people we were thirty years ago. We’ve changed our attitudes toward certain fabrics, the amount of chemicals in our toiletries and the origins of the food we eat. We’ve also become more global in our thinking and more interested in helping those less fortunate.

If you’re not addressing these issues, it might be time for a pivot. Every business doesn’t have to be a paragon of political correctness, but catering to the concerns of a modern buyer might help boost sales. For example, people concerned about the environment will appreciate items made from recycled materials. And anyone with a heart will be more likely to buy if a percent of your sales goes to charity.

Pivoting toward a more socially responsible business model isn’t just good for your business, it’s also good for your soul.


You’ve Changed

Which brings us to the third reason to pivot – you’ve changed.

When you started your business five years ago, you were in love with knitting. But now you dread the thought of winding another ball of yarn and those yarn fibers are triggering your allergies. Don’t give up. Pivot. Find another way to accomplish the same or a similar end product. Then, slowly start moving these items into your store as you move the old items out. In six months time, your customers won’t even remember that you used to crochet those handbags. Not when they see the gorgeous new bags made out of vintage quilts.

Can’t see those tiny beads as well as you used to? Time to think chunky.

Arthritis making it hard to craft? Use your talents to create patterns, kits or classes.


The important thing to note about a pivot, is that it’s not the same as giving up. You’re not abandoning your business because you’re bored or it’s too hard to get ahead. The pivot is about tweaking your business so it’s a better fit in today’s world.

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