On Business Pivots and Associations

By Bobby Peralta posted 23-10-2022 17:11


You must have heard of the oft-cited business term “pivot,” which means a company altering an aspect(s) of its core products or services to better meet demand, changing their target market, boosting sales or any combination of these. It could also mean adopting a significant change to its operations or business model. The end goal of a pivot is to help the company survive and thrive.

“Many people think of disruption as a bolt from the blue that comes out of nowhere and shakes up an entire industry. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes you can make a small change in a slightly different direction. Done right, a small change creates massive opportunities,” writes Gihan Perera in a recent “Thinking Ahead” e-newsletter. In his article, “The Power of the Pivot,” the futurist listed five pivots from which I have picked four to share with associations:

  1. Market Pivot. When Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook to connect university students, he planned to expand it to high-schoolers but chose a wider market instead: everyone. Many associations have successfully expanded their membership categories to include, not only those working in their professions or industries, but also students, retirees, suppliers, among others.
  2. Side Pivot. In 1891, William Wrigley sold soap and baking powder and included two free packets of chewing gum with every order. To his surprise, he discovered that customers wanted the chewing gum more than the baking powder. An example of this in the association context is the popularity of mentorship and coaching programs as an added value to their training and credentialing programs.
  3. Focus Pivot. Instagram started as a “meet-up” service called Burbn, but it was too complicated. The founders stripped it down to its most popular feature: photo sharing. Often, associations are tempted to venture into products and services that are not really relevant to members. But there are at least four focus areas that associations should consider: learning, knowledge, community and advocacy.
  4. Digital Pivot. Air New Zealand posted the largest corporate loss in New Zealand’s history but turned it around with a digital first focus. Associations which have embraced, embedded and employed digitalization initiatives in their organizations are found to be more successful and sustainable.

A pivot, however, is not a magic formula that can solve all our problems and should only be considered when absolutely needed. It should be treated as a last resort when all other options have been thoroughly explored and exhausted.

So, when is it the right time to pivot? Vikas Agrawal, co-founder at Infobrandz, in his article published by Forbes, cites these “ifs”: (a) you can’t see much progress even after putting in a tremendous amount of money and resources; (b) there is just too much competition; (c) the company’s progress has plateaued; (d) only one of your company’s features or services gets traction; (e) customers aren’t responding to your products like you thought they would; and, (f) your perspective about the industry has changed.

This article was published by the Business Mirror on October 21, 2022 and may not be reproduced without prior consent from the writer and Business Mirror.