Pivot. It’s a word we’re hearing constantly, but how often are we told how to do it step-by-step?
When you want to pivot, but don’t know how to, you’ve got a problem.
Let’s make an effort to solve that problem together right now.
Obviously, I can’t teach you every single thing you need to know about pivoting in one blog post, but we can cover a lot, and I can point you to some excellent resources for further reading and learning on your own.
That’s what it will take for all of us to get through this.
In essence, we’re talking about making a change. Most business owners have realized to many degrees that we have to make a pivot, a big change in our business. When something happens, how do we modify? How do we keep ourselves on the path to becoming a bigger, badder, better version of ourselves, even in the midst of a crisis?
Resources for Pivoting in a Crisis
The Impact of the Corona Crisis on Your Business Model is a workbook from the Copenhagen Business School. It was written by Thomas Ritter and Karsten Lund Pedersen. They also have a book called Alignment Squared.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it a lot, you and I are not going to out earn our personal growth. That’s just not how it works. What this means is that for me personally, and for you, one of the things we must do all the time is continue to find a way to grow.
This particular resource is something I came across in Harvard Business Review near the time when everything was falling apart. Since then, HBR has done an amazing job of releasing a significant number of outstanding articles to help us through this crisis.
One of my favorite titles is an article called “Real Leaders are Forged In Crisis.”
Another good one: “Turn Your Covid-19 Solution Into a Viable Business.”
I highly recommend reading both of these, as well as many other great articles HBR has been putting out all year.
I want to walk you through the meat and potatoes of the workbook for a few minutes. The authors’ model is divided into three phrases and five categories (with corresponding questions).
1. During the Crisis
2. Right After the Crisis
3. New Normal
Our human nature wants to rush past the crisis, past “right after the crisis,” and get to “new normal” as fast as we can. We want to get to our new normal—like yesterday.
Unfortunately, we can’t make it go faster. We have to go through the process, all of the stages. We can’t skip to the end.
People like to pretend the new normal is already here, and it’s not. Not even close. We are still at the beginning. We’re still in the crisis. We’re not even at Phase 2 yet, no matter how much we want to be.
Understanding where you are—and being realistic about it—is important. This is the first thing to recognize. Then you need to go through the five areas of business and all the questions that ensue.
And when we get to each new stage, we have to reevaluate everything again.
3. Value Proposition
4. Value Demonstration
There are questions that will come up in each category, and the workbook lists a bunch of them.
Let’s pretend we’re in the “during the crisis” phase and we’re talking about our customer.
Identifying Your Customer
First of all, who was our customer during the crisis, and who is our customer now? Asking this question is what will begin to unlock very different people and inform the daily actions you need to take.
So, what did this look like in my STR business? Before the crisis, here in California, our number one STR customer was the Asian business traveler. We took it hard at the beginning, to say the least. Asia was the first continent shut down because of COVID-19 and its residents were not allowed in the U.S.
So now who is our customer? Or who has the potential to be our customer? Who is looking for short term housing right now, maybe even because of the crisis?
I’ll say this over and over again: Our number one lead generation source during a crisis on the planet—and it’s FREE—is the news. The news is really good, really consistent, about telling you what’s broken, where it’s broken, sometimes who broke it, but they never tell you how to fix it.
That’s where the entrepreneur comes in.
A few months ago, the news was saying things like “First responders need a place to stay because they can’t go back home.” And “Medical professionals are being asked to quarantine themselves and go help out in other areas.” And “Schools are closing, and college students, especially international students, have no place to go.”
These are all things the news told us, and because we were consciously asking questions and figuring out how to pivot, the connection became very clear to us. Because we were aware that our customer has changed, we could make that pivot.
Our new customers would be first responders, medical professionals, and stranded students. We just had to figure out how to find them and market to them.
Let’s move on to value demonstration. How did you demonstrate your value pre-Covid? And how are you demonstrating that value now?
This was probably the most difficult part for every STR operator: how to make that switch regarding the value of what you have to offer the marketplace. Nothing you’ve previously done is still working, and you had to rebuild that entire process right there on the spot pretty much. Either that or get left behind—or go out of business immediately.
Previously, people discovered your STR on all these platforms, but now no one is traveling, so no one is checking out those platforms to find you.
You had to make this immediate connection of two things. You had to figure out who your new customer is and then figure out how to get in front of them and demonstrate your value to them.
For us, this meant more advertising and marketing on social media (Facebook, Instagram). We found ways to connect with medical personnel and international students. We created flyers and went to the hotels when they closed. (Hotels did such a great job of branding themselves that customers were still showing up at their doors even after they closed.)
I was brainstorming with some of my students recently about value propositions. Because of the customer change, with a deepened focus on medical travelers, I asked some of them who are in the medical profession themselves, “What do you value?”
One guy said “scrubs.” Okay, scrubs it is.
Long story short, we started giving away a pair of scrubs for a reservation of a certain length of stay. It worked. That’s not something I would have thought of on my own. We collectively solved a problem and came up with a new way to propose and demonstrate value.
Know Your Capabilities
Let’s talk about capabilities. What about your capabilities during the crisis had to change? One of the first ones for us (and for most businesses) was our sanitation/cleaning protocols. We had to develop a new list of standards and added a ton of steps to ensure people’s utmost safety.
You can allow the crisis to happen to you, or you can lead through the crisis, create clarity, and help your business, your team, and your future.
Our knees just got cut off. It hurt. But we’re stronger now. We’ve built a stronger business, we’re no longer dependent on just one kind of customer, we’ve developed all kinds of new resources, and we’re constantly developing more.
We got out of our rut, we’re alert, and we’re ready to make any change we need to make regardless of what gets thrown our way.
So ask yourself: Did my business change fundamentally? Is there still a need for my business, for what I have to offer? Yes or no?
So long as there’s still that need, there’s a way to make your business work. But you’ve got to go through the resources, you’ve got to find the questions, make the changes, and as you do so, you unlock new customers, new innovations, new ways of doing things.
That’s exactly what our marketplace needs: more innovation.
If you find yourself sitting and waiting for things to get better, you’re wasting your time. It’s not going to get better until you and I innovate and create something to make it better.
I don’t care what that something is. Just do it.