It’s a recurring and well-worn theme in the tech world. Companies must innovate or be passed by. An eager Steve Jobs picks up innovations Xerox PARC fails to capitalize on and embeds them into industry changing devices and technology. Friendster gives way to MySpace, MySpace to Facebook.
The ability to adapting, to “pivot,” is critical for companies operating in the hyper competitive and dynamic space of the Internet. Pivoting is the art of recognizing that the pursuit of a specific idea, direction or product – in which you’ve invested significant time, money and energy – is no longer the correct path to follow.
I know that place. When we founded Wix, Flash was the best option to provide our users with a tool to create stunning websites themselves. And millions did. By now, the troubled history Flash had as a result of the growth of smartphones and mobile devices is well known. A little over two years ago Wix.com stood at a crossroads and was forced to choose between a well-worn path and an entirely new direction.
By 2011 we had come to our inflection point, pivot or be passed by. We determined that a technologically complex move to an HTML5 platform was the way to go. Two years on, we’ve grown from a Flash website builder to an all-inclusive platform that allows small businesses, organizations and creative professionals to create and manage their entire online presence, without the need to code.
As important as a particular pivot decision is, the process begins with the steps you take early on. These three rules will help ensure that when a fork in the road appears, you are prepared to choose the right direction.
1. Be gusty, not foolish. In the early stages of building a company, it can seem everyone from the experienced investor to the well-intentioned friend or family member is a business wizard sure they know better than you the best direction for your company. These early days require a stubbornness willingness to follow through on a vision that may not be completely clear to, or supported by, your peers.
Yet, at some point, the exact trait needed to get you started could blind you to a much-needed pivot in a new direction. The remedy: listen to your employees, embrace criticism and institutionalize feedback sessions. Internalize the feedback and stay connected with the needs of your audience by being attentive to market trends. Do this and you will recognize the need and correct timing for changes.
Be transparent. It is essential that you be open about your decision making process with investors and employees.
When we made the decision to go with HTML5, some thought the move was a mistake. By being transparent, we were able to discuss honestly the pros and cons. That resulted in a better-developed game plan and unity among decision makers and team members.
Some of the best ideas on how to maximize the move came from individuals who didn’t agree with the decision in the first place. Those initial conversations fostered a sense of cohesion that saw us through the challenging early days of the move.
Don’t look back. One of the biggest challenges in pivoting is the uneasy feeling that maybe you didn’t make the right choice. When you decide to take a new path, it needs your full support and attention. Anything less means you’ll never know which way works best while spreading your business dangerously thin.
Even more, you need to go all in as a group. There’s a time for a debate, but once a decision has been made, everyone needs to get on board.
Every entrepreneur knows that adapting is a key trait of the most successful startups, yet in the heat of the moment, pivoting can be far more difficult that you expect. By focusing on the ideas above, you’ll be more likely to make the necessary adjustments and to follow them through to greater success.