There’s a myth that persists in web entrepreneurship: that all successes happened overnight, and were generally the result of some fervent bouts of creativity and coding and then the magic of “going viral”.
There are two big problems with this myth. The first is that it’s partly true, there are some start-ups that really did take off like a rocket, and secondly that it’s extremely unlikely to happen to your start-up. But that doesn’t mean your start-up can’t still deliver enormous success.
If you’re building a mass consumer product that relies on a social graph you might just achieve that, if you’re building anything else, maybe for a more niche market, or building a complex application that can’t just be built and launched in two months, you’re unlikely to ever achieve that level of instant adoption that is held up as the pinnacle of web entrepreneurship.
So what if after launching your minimum viable product it didn’t take off quite as you’d dreamed? This is where you dust off your business model, and it’s time to Pivot or Persist.
Even if you’re bootstrapping, or working on a small amount of seed funding, it’s important that you have a plan for growth, and if things didn’t grow that way, it’s important for you to understand why not. Your business model is a living document and you should revisit all of your fundamental assumptions about your plan for growth. Did your first product suck? Did your marketing suck? Did a major competitor eclipse you? Are all of your fundamental assumptions about getting any customers completely wrong? Are you just plain delusional in that you are in fact the only person who really wants your product!?
It’s important to be brutally honest about where your business is going. Get some external help from a trusted friend or advisor — one that will be honest enough to tell you if the idea you’ve put your time and money into just plain sucks if necessary.
At the end of that process you’ll have a way forward: Pivot or Persist.
It might be that you need to tweak how you approach the market, or which market you’re approaching. It might just be that you need to keep working, that all of your fundamentals are still sound, but you need to make the product better. That Pivot could be a 5 degree turn to the left to change how things work, or it might be a total change in direction, or a whole new business.
I’ve seen both sides of the coin — I’ve seen entrepreneurs jump from ship to ship too quickly just because the one they were on didn’t take off quickly enough for their liking. I’ve also seen entrepreneurs persist in a bad idea that was fundamentally flawed and would never take off as they would like.
Persistence, perseverance and a cast iron belief in what they are doing in the face of sceptics are some of an entrepreneur’s most important assets.
Pivoting your business quickly; changing its formula to changing circumstances or market realities is one the entrepreneur’s most important skills.
Knowing when to Pivot and when to Persist is a wisdom all of its own.