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Pivoting is the new black. Everyone’s doing it. A pivot is described as making a fundamental business change when a product or service isn’t meeting the needs of the intended market. So, when is this a change to existing business? And when is it an entirely new business? These lines are a little blurry. A pivot means staying true to your core offering and mission. The method of delivery might change. The target market might change. But fundamentally the core remains the same. Otherwise it’s a new business, which is fine if it fits in with your longer term plans. You know what you’re doing. You understand the new industry and have experience in it. Otherwise it’s a quick buck and shit idea.

Covid-19 has created a lot of business opportunities (and destroyed as many in its wake). People have taken advantage of this and pivoted accordingly. They’ve been creative and moulded their business to the current environment. Many people have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and snapped up short-term opportunities under the guise of a pivot. Everyone is making masks. Everyone is delivering hand sanitiser and PPE. (A few months ago most of us weren’t even sure what PPE stood for.)

For some businesses taking advantage of these type of opportunities makes sense. Clothing designers, who understand fabrics and the clothing manufacturing process, making masks and clothing for healthcare workers. A Proudly South African brand pivoting from delivering swimwear to delivering locally produced organic food. It makes sense. The core of the business has remained the same. They are working in an industry they understand and have experience in.

When does it get dangerous and why? Last week I received two emails from people in my network. One works in human resources, the other in urban farming and horticulture. Now, surely there’s loads of scope for both those industries under the current circumstances. However, both were asking my opinion on a request of proposal from a big corporate – interestingly enough it was the same request for proposal. The proposal was to provide hand sanitiser. While this may seem harmless or even next level hustle; earn some money on the side to keep the real business going. Had they really both considered the real implications of this exercise?

Opportunity costs

Putting together these types of proposals takes a lot of time. It’s a very admin intensive process. While you’re focusing on putting all this together, what’s not happening in your business? But one could argue that they have a team to sort this out and they’ve got the process all worked out so the owner can continue to focus on other things. Fair enough.

But there’s another layer to this. Because we’re hustlers, people are putting out fake requests for proposals (certainly in South Africa they are) and innocent businesses are losing money. This is the danger of delving into an area you have no experience in – you don’t know how to spot a con! But you probably can recover from this with a lesson learnt.

Reputational damage or worse

Herein lies the greatest danger. How well do you know the industry you’re about to venture into? Since it’s very topical, let’s back to hand sanitiser. If you’ve never supplied a product like this before how well do you know the supplier? Are they reliable? Are they going to deliver on time? Let’s say they do. Your supplier delivers, you get paid and all is good with the world. You’ve made your quick buck.

What happens in a week’s time when the client discovers the product wasn’t up to standard and is causing a rash? You’re now sitting with the reputational damage of non-delivery. Most big clients work off a central database that you’ve been blacklisted on. You’ll never get business from them again. But it could get worse, what happens if there’s grounds for a lawsuit? Have you prepared for that? What will the potential damage be to your business?

Things are tough!

We’re all trying to survive. Long-term planning with so much uncertainty is hard. But the best thing any business can do is to stay true to their core and get creative within that. Sacrificing your reputation and possibly you’re your business is not worth it for a quick buck. Covid-19 will pass, make sure you don’t drown in your hand sanitiser.


If you’re not sure if your pivot is a good idea book your free 20 minute business assessment with me. Click here to make a booking