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Shift happens - What is your pivot strategy?

Updated: May 4, 2020

In the recent blog about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, I focused on grit and gratitude. For this one, I would like to pivot, literally, and symbolically to what business can benefit from the ability to pivot. On the mountain, the ability to pivot from the current situation was key to successfully making it to the summit, and down.

Mountain Pivot: Finding a dryer On the climb.It rained more days than it didn’t This weather meant the trail conditions were not going to be dry as expected and were going to offer more opportunities to have wet, cold feet and a horrible time. What I needed was a dryer, and clearly, I am not going to find a dryer at 19,341 feet.

I needed to pivot from the current path of miserable to one of magical. First, let's assess the problem - Wet, cold shoes. Next, let's assess our current assets. - Small hand warmers (2 inches by 1 inch that when shaken create heat). - Body warmth when snuggled inside the sleeping bag. Put the next days' clothes in the sleeping bag with me to warm them up - Dry bags. These are stuff sacks that all the contents of my duffle and day pack go into to keep them dry. If I consolidate my belongings, I could use 2 of these to act as a water-resistant liner to my boots. The pivot - creating a makeshift heater using hand warmers, medical tape, and body heat. I pulled the soles from hiking boots and placed them against my warm skin and taping the other side with the activated hand warmers, then using my tightly fitting base layer shirt to keep them in place against my skin, then putting on the rest of my layers and getting into my sleeping bag. The next morning - I put on socks, the dry bag, another pair of dirty socks to keep the new dry bag in place, and slid my foot into my boot with the dry-ish sole and started to hike. Voila, by the end of that day's hike, I had dry, warm feet.

What is a pivot, and how can an organization do it? In today's ever-changing business climate, there will be similar unexpected "wet and cold moments." Familiar moments include the competition or a disruptor that offers a new feature or service for a different price. As a result, standard pivots that an organization can prepare for are a product feature pivot, the revenue model pivot, technology pivot, product versus services pivot, and the customer problem pivot. While it is tempting to categorize any change in direction a pivot, but it is not, changing from one vision to another is not only not a pivot; it is most likely a disaster waiting to happen. Actions to pivot; Step 1: Member/ consumer problem assessment. Need to understand why the member/consumer is engaging with your organization in the first place. What problem does your organization solve for them?

In the credit union industry, a credit union solves four fundamental problems for its members.

  • Travel problem - The member needs transportation (not an auto loan), and the credit union is the conduit to transportation.

  • Shelter problem - Similar to transportation, the member needs a place to call home (not a mortgage), and again the credit union is the conduit to shelter

  • Travel and Play - The member has desires for either travel and play. They need a financial partner that will help them achieve these goals within their current financial condition

  • Rainy day and Retirement funds. - The member needs a financial partner that will help set them up short term and long term deposits.

Step 2: Identify your opportunity for growth. The output of the problem assessment should provide insights into organizational strengths and opportunities for growth. These identified opportunities can be flushed out as a pivot strategy. Consider the tools and talents the organization has that be used to achieve the goal but in a different strategic pathway. The following example of a successful pivot strategy came from a recent Entrepreneur article. "Groupon started life as the subset of an utterly unrelated platform known as the point that was envisioned as a social platform where people could get together to rally behind social and charitable causes. The Point gained some decent traction when it launched in Chicago but then started to fizzle. As an extension of the platform, the team added a subdomain -- Groupon -- where customers could pool their money to try and negotiate a group discount. That idea was far more popular, so the founders stuck with it and made it the central platform, expanding with opportunities for businesses." While the example of solving for dry feet is a smaller and immediate problem, the process was similar, assessment, identify opportunity from tools/talents provided. Based on recent economic reports, the economy may be heading for a wet and cold spell, so knowing how to create a pivot will keep you warm and dry. Focus on solving the customer/member problem, with the tools and talent you have. Taking this action this will ultimately lead to improved member relationship.

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