The art of pivots to steer through rough waters

A startup is like a boat sailing in a deep wide ocean with a ‘feeling’ that the shore is on the other side. But there is fog.

Published: 07th December 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th December 2017 11:40 PM   |  A+A-

A startup is like a boat sailing in a deep wide ocean with a ‘feeling’ that the shore is on the other side. But there is fog. There are winds. And storms. Oh and did we mention the sea creatures? Just like a page from a comic book eh? But really startup ride is like that. One strong wind and you need to steer the wheel to the left to keep it afloat. If you see storm coming ahead, you have to immediately pivot your boat route to another direction for a while. And it is natural. There is nothing you can do about it.

Imagine if ‘drying out of funds’ is a storm, you surely want to steer your boat away from that direction before you get drowned. And that also means chasing some revenue sources (or B2B clients) for a while before finally settling down again on enriching quality of your product. While these pivots are essential, it is actually dreadful for the people on-board. Here is how you can ensure smooth pivoting:

1. Realise when your way is not working out. The later you realise, the more distress the company will feel.

2. Let your people know as soon as possible. Because when as bystanders, they find that their vessel is moving towards another direction for some unknown reason, they may panic. Clarity in your team is important.

3. Plan for the worst scenarios and make a ‘Plan B’. Don’t start pivoting all of a sudden. It will always cause distress. But if you prepare in advance and have room for Plan B anyway it will be much smoother.

4. Embrace the new plan. As long as you are not convinced that what you are doing is right for the company, you will never be able to deliver it downwards.

5. Keep a track of metrics. Even if you pivot, you should be clear on what are you going to track now. Is it unit sales or profit or revenue or traffic or something else. And why? This has to link with the core strategy of your startup. So don’t lose the sight of right metrics. Because if you do, you will never know if the pivot was right or not.

Conclusively, I would like to quote Thomas Edison — “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” If Edison wouldn’t have pivoted from one method to another, he would have never cracked the bulb. So don’t shy away from pivoting. Happy sailing!

If you have any queries, write to

Rajeev Tamhankar


The writer is IIT-R Alumnus, Entrepreneur of The Year’17 (Print Business) and the Founder of TBS Planet Comics

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