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What does it mean for an entrepreneur to pivot?

I can never emphasize enough how much research an entrepreneur must do. Research is the first task an entrepreneur must take in a startup, as it is vital in determining the trajectory of a new venture’s strategy. Creating a strategy requires research on the external environment. It also requires a lot of introspection on the resources and capabilities the entrepreneur possesses. And to tie it together, research is necessary to determine what the ventures resources and capabilities must be.

The goal of entrepreneurial research should be to validate the assumptions of the entrepreneur. One of the reasons, I find the entrepreneurial community to be toxic is that it does not encourage people, to the extent that it should, to validate their own ideas. Instead, it wants to shove marketing services down the new venture’s throat and let entrepreneurs continue down their folly. There’s a reason most startups fail and that reason is tied to a lack of research particularly with idea validation. I would know. Not every entrepreneurial idea I’ve had was a good one. But it was validated by the community nonetheless. It took a lot of introspection to move on from that idea.

Entrepreneurs need people who will criticize their ideas, to throw it in the metaphorical lion’s den to see if God will protect it. But God’s not a vending machine, so one must do research. The entrepreneur must provide the wood for the furnace. So what happens if the furnace burns you? What if the research doesn’t validate the idea? Worse yet, what happens if the market place isn’t receiving your idea after you’ve sunk money into it? The research phase of a startup has its cost, but I mean launching costs. It’s a scary situation to launch a business and watch the tumbleweeds blow by. If that happens, a business must act. Doing nothing just wastes more money.

In basketball, a pivot is allowed when a player stops dribbling. It’s where a player can move one foot but not the other. In business, it allows the entrepreneur to change their direction. Pivoting is not the same as giving up. In giving up the entrepreneur takes their ball, if they still have it, and goes home. Giving up has a sense of defeat. Pivoting is not a win, in of itself. But pivoting is the loss that leads to more victories. I am the founder of a company called EcoEats. EcoEats wasn’t always about making alligator jerky. In fact, the business started out with the idea of farming rabbits. So how did, I go from rabbit husbandry to jerky production? It’s a long story. And there’s a food truck in between! I pivoted several times on my idea. Why? Because my market research showed the better people than me were already producing rabbit meat. That was my first pivot. Most pivots since then are financially related because I am not made of startup costs. If I were, I’d be an angel investor.

Yet even with EcoEats now, I can’t help but suspect another pivot will be in order. My sales aren’t nearly where I want them to be, but neither is my production. But a pivot isn’t a minor change. Quite the opposite. A minor change is merely tactical. A pivot is a major strategic overall, if not taking the resources and capabilities and starting something entirely different. For example, I shredded my rabbitry idea, but built a new venture on the research that I did previously. In this, there was a major strategic overhaul of my venture’s business model, resources and capabilities, and external environment. EcoEats has come a long way and still has a long way to go. Likewise, Startup Christ is only in it’s beginning. Revamping the site was only the beginning of the changes to come here. Pivoting is often a step in a business’s evolution because the original or previous model wasn’t set up to last in the environment.  Notable companies that pivoted in their early days include, Twitter, Groupon, and Instagram. Seasoned entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to tweak a concept that may be doomed on arrival. But just like everything else in business, execution is the hard part.

Raymond Fava is the Founder of Startup Christ and the founder of EcoEats, Inc. EcoEats crafts exotic jerkies using unique flavors. To see their selection, click here.

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