Innovation and the ability to continually be one step ahead of the curve will always be valued traits of an entrepreneur.
But how do you know when you need to innovate or change things up in your business?
It’s not like someone tells you to change and the indication isn’t always clear… or is it?
Throughout my business journey I’ve pivoted my business model on several occasions… from switching products or how I offered them in my retail store, to pitching to and collaborating with my local Council and supplying a cloth nappy pack to every newborn baby in town, to packaging up my experience and expertise and launching online sustainable living programs, to selling my retail business and coaching other conscious business creators in the online space.
All in all, over the past 8 years in business I’ve had three very distinct business models, all of which have been successful and profitable in their own right.
Now I didn’t start with three separate businesses, and I didn’t intend to create three separate business models. I set about creating one and deliberately pivoted on a number of occasions when faced with challenges to create the business I’m running today.
One fact of running a business is that things will always change. In fact, it could be said that the only constant in business is change!
Conditions outside our control, like ever changing local, regional and global economic conditions, increasing competition or even simply a change in demand for our products or services can lead to the reality that we need to pivot in order to survive.
But sometimes it’s not an outside influence. Sometimes the desire to pivot comes from within us too.
Here’s four signs that you may need to pivot in your business.
1. Decreased Demand for Your Products or Services
A downturn in sales is an indication that it’s time to innovate or even pivot in your business.
One winter season in my former retail business Sustainababy I couldn’t keep on top of demand for a specific baby sleeping bag. Literally the minute I received them in stock they would walk out the door. The next winter I was prepared and stocked up in advance awaiting the onslaught, but it didn’t come.
In fact, it seemed like I couldn’t even give the sleeping bags away!
What had changed?
The sleeping bag manufacturer had not only taken hundreds of new retailers on board, they’d also launched their own online store.
Demand for the product hadn’t necessarily decreased, the available stores where consumers could purchase the item had significantly increased but the end result to me, the retailer, was the same. Dead stock sitting in my warehouse.
I focussed on moving the dead stock and bringing in different product lines to make up the short fall in sales but I’d be honest and admit, after this happened numerous times with several different lines I started to think creatively how I could add revenue streams in my business that weren’t so invested in a single product or supplier.
I started to think how I could pivot.
2. Your Customers Are Asking For More
Listen to your customers. They’re the heartbeat of your business and will alert you to any new trends before anything else.
Are they asking for you to sell specific products? Are they asking question after question on how to do something? Are they being super direct and telling you upfront that it would be awesome if you could offer x, y and z?
When running my retail business I was constantly answering questions from customers such as how they could reduce their baby’s exposure to toxins. After time, I decided to package these questions up into my first eco-living ecourse and in 2014, my Home Detox Boot Camp was born. And because I paid close attention to what my customers were asking me, I created a course that was very well received.
A point to note here though….. just because your customers are asking you to provide a certain product or service doesn’t mean you should automatically go out and deliver. Make sure there’s a genuine need, it fits into the business model you want to manage, and it serves your “ideal customer”, not just any customer.
3. You Can’t Increase Your Revenue Without Proportionally Increasing Your Workload
This is a common downfall of running a products-based business.
While workshopping on my business plan in 2013 and projecting growth for the year ahead, I wrote that I wanted to raise average monthly revenue in my online retail business from $12,500 to $20,000.
When it came to brainstorming ways I was going to achieve this I quickly came to the realisation that within the constraints of my business model at the time (which was 100% retail based) this would result in significantly more product passing through my warehouse, packaging more individual orders and dealing with more customer requests (and those dreaded refunds!).
At the time I was running the business with a baby and toddler at home and the thought of more orders was enough to set my head into a spin. The thought of managing people to run the warehouse and do the ongoing work didn’t appeal either.
So, I set about creating some leveraged offers in my business and launched a cloth nappy program in collaboration with my local Council, where my business supplied a cloth nappy pack to every newborn baby in town, and then went on to create and launch my first eco-living ecourse.
Within a few short months I’d achieved my first $20,000 month without drowning in physical orders or significantly increasing my workload.
Talk about a good pivot!
4. You’re Not Excited About Your Business Anymore
If there’s ever a clear sign that you need to pivot in your business, this is it.
I’m not referring to changing everything up after a bad day, bad week or bad month. I’m talking about that strong gut feeling that, regardless of how successful your business is, you just don’t want to run it in its existing format anymore.
If this is you there’s a couple of actions you can take.
You can employ staff to manage the business and you step out of the picture in part or entirely, or you can sell your business.
Often when we’re stuck in the day to day running of our businesses it’s difficult to think beyond the next sale, let alone ponder what life would be like beyond running our business.
But if you’ve totally lost your business mojo, I encourage you to think what that may look like to you.
I loved my first business, Sustainababy. It reflected my passion, was making positive change in the lives of my customers and the world, and I was so proud that I’d built it up to a 6-figure business from just an idea.
But after six years I felt trapped within the confines of the brand and craved something new and more leveraged.
Put simply, I wasn’t excited about my business anymore.
Plus, I’d been busy building my online sustainable living programs and wanted to devote more time and energy in that area.
It wasn’t just time to pivot. It was time to sell.
Within four months of making the decision to sell I’d signed a contract of sale and felt like a weight was off my shoulders. But I was also ecstatic that my first business got to live on and continue to make positive change in the world.
It was another good pivot for me!
Given I’ve pivoted several times in my business now, I find it easy to recognise the signs and often guide my conscious coaching clients through the process of pivoting, which can sometimes be overwhelming.
In fact I received a lovely message from a former client of mine today who wrote:
“I wanted to email you to let you know some exciting news, which is that I sold my business!! I kept my ecourse as I want to continue on with that, but otherwise sold everything else and I am so happy about it. I remember when we first started working together you said one day I might want to do that and it seemed like a complete impossibility. But thanks to a lot of the things I did while working with you like the new website and building my newsletter subscriber list I actually had a business that was sellable 🙂 So thank you!” – Anna
So where are you at right now?
Is a business pivot on the cards soon?
Has there been a time when you’ve recognised one of the above four signs and you’ve innovated a pivot in your business?
Feel free to share below!
P.S. Once you’ve recognised you need to pivot I have some handy tools I use to brainstorm when to focus next in your biz. Be sure to join my Conscious Biz Creators Community on Facebook to be the first to hear when I share these!