Tiny MBA #16: Pivoting and Uphill Battles

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Welcome to today’s Tiny MBA topic: Pivoting.

Definition: Pivoting

Pivoting is making whatever changes you must, however dramatic, to save your business if it stops working.

Story: Pivoting and Uphill Battles

Say you’re out in the wilderness riding your bike one day, doing a ride you’ve never done before.

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Illustration by Madeleine Kelly

Suddenly the trail starts getting steeper and steeper, and you start struggling mightily to keep the bike moving forward.

You promised yourself you wouldn’t quit til you finished your ride, as a point of pride. But now it’s too steep – you simply can’t pedal any further uphill. So you can either quit and reverse course back down the hill, or ‘pivot’ – find some way to change your plans but keep going.

Maybe you can find a trail that goes around the side of the mountain, rather than going over the top. Maybe you can walk the bike uphill for a while until the trail levels out again.

But one way or another, you’ll figure out how to change your plan to get up over (or around) the hill. That’s called pivoting.

Businesses have to pivot all the time, due to unexpected circumstances. Customers stop buying. Competitors launch better products. Accidents and natural disasters happen.

Given the choice between pivoting (reinventing your business) and quitting (shutting it down), most businesspeople will at least try to pivot. That can mean developing a new product, finding new customers, moving, replacing key team members, or all of the above.

Sometimes, pivoting can even be the key to great success. Netflix was originally a DVD-by mail service. YouTube originally tried to be an online dating service (it didn’t work). Samsung was an exporter of dried fish.

Each pivot situation is unique – what worked for other businesses won’t necessarily work for yours.

You’re out in the woods on your bike, the hill is too steep, and you have to figure it out by yourself. And you will!

Tiny MBA is my occasional series of short stories illustrating business concepts for kids.

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