To pivot or not to pivot… – Mark MacLeod

June 28, 2021 - Mark MacLeod

To pivot or not to pivot…

The term “pivot” was added to the startup vocabulary in the past decade or so to describe when a startup changes its mission or focus.

Some pivots are small, such as changing the target customer from enterprise to mid-market. Others are large, such as Slack shutting down the game they were working on and instead focusing on the internal messaging system they built to support their game development.

Startup success is never a straight line up and to the right. Along the way you will inevitably ask yourself whether you should keep going in the current direction or not. Here are some thoughts on how to decide whether a pivot makes sense for your business

Reconfirm the Vision

Go back to your long-term vision. Without thinking about the challenges you might be facing today, do you still believe in this vision? Does it still excite you? Is there evidence that this vision will happen?

Set aside sunk costs

Regardless of how much time and $ you have invested in the current direction, set those aside when assessing whether to continue going in the same direction.

Knowing everything you know about the current direction, would you start going down it today? If so, great. If not, then regardless of how much you have invested, you need to change direction.

Consider external Input

Even if you still believe in your vision, look for evidence from the market that the world wants this vision to happen. What are you hearing from actual and potential customers, partners, competitors, press, industry analysts, etc?

This can be tricky of course. lf everyone shares your exact vision, then you’re likely not pursuing something that novel. None of us needed a smartphone – until we had one. It was not a share vision. Still, what signals is the market sending you?

What can be accomplished in runway?

The reason why startups die is that they run out of money. Yes, there are underlying root causes, but you can keep trying to address them as long as you have money.

If you are considering a pivot, you need to make sure you can make sufficient progress in the new direction to be able to raise more capital or get to profitability. There is no point building a 10 foot bridge if the chasm is 100 ft. long.

This is especially true for growth stage (> $5M revenue…) companies. Early stage investors will take a leap of faith. Growth stage investors won’t.

These are some topics to consider as you decide if a pivot is the right more for your business.

Questions to consider

Do I still believe in the vision for this company? Does it excite me? Is it still my purpose or calling?

Knowing everything I know about our current direction and path, if I were starting today would I go in this direction? If not, what does this mean? What changes do we need to make?

Am I open to and actively looking for external input and signals about our current path and long term vision? Am I listening to them? Am I filtering and only hearing what I want to hear?

Do we have enough runway to pull off a pivot and be able to raise more capital or get to profitability?

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Your journey is never done

Sign up to my newsletter and join an inspired community of leaders who realize that the journey to achieving their full potential is never done.

    If you’re curious about my coaching and deal work you can learn more here.

    back to blog

    Latest Blog Feed

    Optimize your performance by managing your energy

    Have you noticed that some meeting and activities drain you while others feed you? As CEO, you get pulled in many directions. Your work days can be intense. While intensity is needed if you want to build something big, you […]

    read more

    Assessing your leadership team

    When I begin working with new CEO clients, we spend a lot of time talking about their leadership team. In fact, after I learn the current state of the union of the CEO him or herself, the very next focus […]

    read more

    Doing more with less

    All markets are cyclical. They go up and down. Expand and contract. The startup funding market is no exception. After the longest bull run on record, CEOs got used to a world where capital felt free. It was abundantly available […]

    read more


    Email :

    Follow me:

    Mark MacLeod ICF Member

    Send Me A Message