Frederik Van Lierde

Why, When and How to Pivot Your Business + Real World of Successful Examples

Discover the power of strategic pivoting during a crisis. Learn when and how to adapt, ensuring your business not only survives but thrives. Why, When and How to Pivot Your Business + Real World of Successful Examples
Change is inevitable. And entrepreneurs who adapt the quickest often find the most success. The concept of pivoting — or changing a fundamental part of your business model — is not new. However, the importance of mastering this skill has been brought to the forefront in recent times due to global crises. Here's why pivoting can be a lifesaver for businesses, when to recognize that it's time to make a move, and the steps to pivot effectively during a crisis.

The Power of the Pivot

A pivot in the business realm refers to a substantive change made to one or more components of a business model. This change can range from the products or services you offer to the way you deliver them or the target market you serve.

Pivoting can be a game-changer because it allows businesses to adapt to changing market conditions swiftly. For companies facing dwindling sales, a pivot might mean venturing into a new market or developing a new product. For others, it may involve rethinking distribution channels or reinventing their brand.

During a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous businesses recognized the need to pivot. Distilleries began producing hand sanitizers, apparel companies shifted to manufacturing masks, and restaurants turned to delivery or take-out models. These shifts weren't just about survival — they showcased resilience, agility, and innovation.

Recognizing the Need to Pivot

Knowing when to pivot is just as crucial as the pivot itself. Here are some signs it might be time:
  1. Stagnating Growth: If your company's growth plateaus or begins to decline, it's a clear indication that something isn't working.
  2. Changing Market Dynamics: Rapid shifts in the market, due to technological advancements or societal changes, might render your product or service obsolete.
  3. Feedback from Customers: Listen to your customers. If they're consistently asking for a feature you don't provide, it might be time to pivot.
  4. External Crises: Events like economic downturns or pandemics can disrupt business operations and necessitate a pivot.

Pivoting During a Crisis: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Assess and Analyze: Understand where your business currently stands. Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to gauge your positioning.
  2. Engage Stakeholders: Keep open communication lines with employees, partners, and customers. Their insights might be invaluable.
  3. Research New Opportunities: Look at market trends, customer behaviors, and potential areas where your skills can be applied.
  4. Plan and Test: Before committing, test the new approach on a smaller scale. This minimizes risk and helps understand potential challenges.
  5. Implement with Agility: Once you've refined your new strategy, implement it. However, remain flexible, allowing for further adjustments if needed.
  6. Review and Refine: Regularly review the effectiveness of your pivot. Seek feedback and be ready to make ongoing tweaks.

The Proactive Approach

While crises often trigger the need for a pivot, it's essential not to wait for another disaster before considering change. A proactive approach to business management involves constantly scanning the environment for threats and opportunities and being ready to adapt at a moment's notice.

Real-World Success Stories: Three Companies That Mastered the Pivot

When the chips are down, some businesses not only adapt but also emerge stronger than before. Here are three real-world examples of companies that pivoted successfully, showcasing the transformative power of change:

Originally a DVD-by-mail service, Netflix recognized the potential of streaming media early on. In a daring move, they shifted their focus to online streaming, facing down initial resistance and uncertainty. This pivot allowed them to dominate the digital entertainment industry, leaving competitors scrambling to catch up.

The popular communication tool Slack began as a gaming company named Tiny Speck. Their game, 'Glitch', was eventually shut down. However, the internal communication tool they developed for their team proved to be invaluable. Recognizing its potential, they pivoted away from gaming and launched Slack, which is now one of the leading communication tools for businesses globally.

Many may not know, but Nintendo didn't start in the gaming industry. Established in the late 1800s, they initially sold handmade playing cards. Over the decades, they ventured into various businesses, including taxis and love hotels. However, in the 1970s, they found their true calling: video games. Since then, Nintendo has become a household name, responsible for some of the world's most beloved gaming franchises.

These companies showcase the idea that, sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone and venturing into unknown territory can lead to unparalleled success. They serve as a school example of being adaptable, proactive, and willing to embrace change, no matter how drastic.


Pivoting during a crisis can be a powerful strategy to not just survive but thrive. Recognizing the need to change, understanding how to make that change, and implementing it effectively are all essential steps in the process. But beyond crises, adopting a proactive, adaptable mindset will set your business up for long-term success. Remember, in the business world, it's not the strongest that survive, but the most adaptable.