I was flying home from a weekend of selling my book at a big Christmas fair on the East Coast, when I read a fascinating article in Entrepreneur Magazine entitled, "Have you reached your pivot point?: Six signs it may be time to turn your startup in a new direction" by Paula Andruss. The more I read, the more interested I became in the principles of pivot and how this could apply to an author or small publishing company.
Did you know that some of the biggest brands in the world started off as completely different companies, and when they realized the business wasn't working they pivoted to a new direction to achieve astronomical success? For example, the daily-deal site Groupon started as The Point, a fundraising website; Facebook started as Facemash, a website to vote who was better looking between two photos; the image-hosting website Flickr started as the online game Never Ending; and YouTube started as the online video-dating site Hook Up. All of these companies started with a goal in mind but then along the way realized they were much better at doing something else. This is the concept behind a business pivot.
Here are the top six ways to know when you need to make a business pivot, as explained in the article.
1. One piece works better than the whole. Sometimes a business can accidentally stumble upon something that it's really good at and you realize there's more potential for growth and sales in that area than in the original business idea. This can be true for authors who love to write books, but they may also be a fantastic conference speaker.
2. You misjudged your market. You think you've come up with the next big solution (ebooks) to a dying industry (paperbacks) only to realize that book buyers aren't quite ready for the shift and aren't interested in your new product.
3. You're missing industry standards. Every industry has a typical time in which they can expect to acquire customers. For example, I had a graphic designer once tell me that it takes 12 months for her to gain a customer after the first meeting; and a music producer recently told me his customer cycle is about 2 years. When it comes to book buying, let's say it takes 2 months from the time a book reader receives a personal recommendation or a coupon code to the time they actually buy the book. If you are not realizing sales within those 2 months, then it should be a red flag that you are outside of your industry norm and something has to change (e.g. price?)
4. The money's not there. The article gives the example of a company that started as a music-lovers website to create fantasy record labels to 'sign' artists they like. But when the money wasn't there to keep the site going, the company made a pivot to become an analytics company for artists, producers, and labels. Sometimes a good idea just isn't a money-making business.
5. A competitor is doing it better. Amazon was not the first online company to sell books, but they are now the biggest because they do it better than anyone else.
6. The thrill is gone. You have to be passionate about your business because no one will care about it as much as you, and you have to be prepared to work some long, brutal hours to get it off the ground. If you get to the point where you don't want to do it anymore, it's time to pivot.
I hope this article provided you with the inspiration to keep building your own business empire!
Stacey D. Atkinson is the author of the newly released novel Stuck, which she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing.