One of the greatest concerns that beginning entrepreneurs experience is that their idea simply won’t work! They fear that they’ll launch their project and audiences won’t respond to it. Of course, this is a real possibility and there’s no sure-fire way to prevent it from happening. However, the good news is that if this does happen it doesn’t mean you have to discard your great idea and start again from scratch. Here’s a much smarter strategy.
Idea not working out? Time to pivot!
Businesses have to adapt all the time to the changing market. More than that though, business ideas often change radically right at the very start as you launch your new idea only to find out your intended audience is not responding the way you had hoped. The more original or innovative your idea, the more likely it is that you will have to respond quickly to make your idea a success, sometimes radically changing the focus of what you’re doing.
Internet legend and now startup investor, Marc Andreessen says:
‘The idea really matters and the products really matter, but you know so little about the adventure you’re undertaking when you’re starting a new tech company, you have to assume that things are going to change. You have to have a very healthy awareness of what you don’t know. You have to be super flexible and able to reverse yourself very quickly.’
In the startup world this has become known as a pivot, and some of the most successful companies in the world have been through it. Here are some examples…
The Manhattan jewellery store hasn’t always been a beacon of luxury and opulence. In fact, the now multibillion dollar company started from very humble roots indeed. Opening their doors in 1837, Tiffany, Young and Ellis (as it was originally called) was a stationary store, selling envelopes, cards, writing equipment and ‘fancy goods’ on the side. The first day’s sales totalled $4.98.
The shop struggled to make ends meet until, in 1953, Charles Tiffany took over. He shortened the name of the shop to Tiffany & Co. and began exclusively selling jewellery. Ask is often the case, a narrower focus was the turning point for success. Now the company has over 60 stores in 22 countries around the world.
Avon Products is a giant in the household, beauty and personal care industry. They sell products in over 140 countries and, in 2013, recorded sales of over $10 billion. Hard to believe that its founder, David McConnell, managed to create the company out of a failing career as a door-to-door book salesman. David set up the California Perfume Company after realising that his clients were far more interested in his free perfume samples than his books. He leveraged his experience and employed a team consisting exclusively of women salespeople to target housewives, totally abandoning book sales and becoming a global success story.
National Geographic had been a pretty successful company for over 100 years before its major pivot moment. Founded in 1888, the magazine was a consistent feature in the homes of American families throughout the 20th century,
However by the 1990s subscriptions were dropping dramatically. Younger generations were not interested in the magazine and its old school image, so CEO John Fahey spearheaded an initiative to reinvent the brand.
The company began to venture outside of the magazine market, launching its own TV channel and featuring more risqué programs, outside of its conventional style, such as Ultimate Survival Alaska, Border Wars and Polygamy USA. Since then the company has brilliantly utilised social networking sites to appeal to a wider audience and avoid falling away like so many other traditional magazines.
Don’t panic, pivot!
So if your idea really does fail to take off there are plenty of ways that you can pivot and reimagine your idea in order to find its true value. The important thing is to not get too disheartened if it doesn’t turn out to be an overnight success. Remember that your venture is an evolving process, and you’re far more likely to succeed if you’re willing to adapt and pivot your idea.
Read more about how to turn flawed business ideas into raging successes in my new book Screw Work Break Free. Download a free chapter below: