Like everything in life, businesses constantly evolve, and frankly need to in order to survive. Sometimes these changes are gradual or small and other times these are earth-shattering shifts selling into new markets or unveiling new products (otherwise known as the famous startup pivot).
While a pivot is controversial both in terms of the concept, as well as the turn of phrase itself, what is indisputable is that company evolution is natural.
At my company Travefy we’ve significantly refocused our efforts over the past year. Starting out as a consumer facing group travel-planning app, we found that our core users were travel professionals. Today we’re a SaaS itinerary management and customer collaboration platform for those travel professionals and are growing faster than ever.
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From our successes, missteps and more during our transition here are four tips for smartly refocusing your business.
1. Interpret data. Don’t spin data.
As an entrepreneur you’re likely by nature (and necessity) always in sales mode: Our product is best, the fastest and the shiniest! This is a valuable trait, however, at times it is essential to turn it off.
When evaluating the health of your current product as well as alternate opportunities it’s easy to let your inner sales mode take over to find the right piece of data that validates your current plans. This might feel like a victory in the short term, but in the long run you’re ignoring powerful lessons.
For us, awesome consumer growth rates, engagement and even conversion rates would have ignored issues of scale that other market segments – like our hyper engaged SaaS travel professional market – did not face.
2. Remember that introspection is difficult.
Despite data showcasing the benefits of or need for a change, it’s completely natural for entrepreneurs and team members to flat-out resist that pivot or change.
On a human nature level, this likely resistance makes complete sense. These new findings are not your original vision and not what you’ve spent months or years building. Nevertheless, that time, money and mindshare are all sunk costs and should be treated as such.
In these situations, nonetheless, introspection is difficult and it can be challenging to be honest with yourself and your team. This is where investors, board members and outside advisors are invaluable to help provide unemotional perspective.
3. Be empathetic in your transition plan.
If it is clear that some form of a pivot or change is necessary, it is important to recognize the variety of stakeholder this will impact.
For team members, recognize the likely abovementioned attachment to your previous products or methods. And for customers, especially those who may be displaced in some way, recognize how potentially devastating a change will be.
Although you can’t necessarily avoid the pain they will all feel, be honest, be clear and put yourself in their shoes when developing any transition plans.
4. Rip off the Band-Aid!
One of cinema’s most famous scenes is in When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal famously proclaims “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
This rings true for anything in business too – where cash is finite and time is not your friend. If something is the right thing to do today, then do it now. Be prudent in your planning, but if a change coming sooner and better than later.