Not long ago, this year even, PIVOT was a business mantra. Something does not work out, just pivot your offering. Sales are not going as expected, pivot your marketing efforts. To pivot was to take basically the same ingredients but take a slightly different spin on the final piece. It was one of the top 3 things you could do in consulting to pull a low performer up without completely leaving it to die a miserable back of the room shelf death.
When the pandemic hit, pivot became the business catchphrase. Have leftover food from your restaurant? Just pivot your offering and become a make shift grocery store. Know how to sew? You can now make pandemic masks. Have a distillery not in use? Just make sanitizer, it is selling like, well, uh, toilet paper. The pivot and the business performance of the pivot is how some in history will go down in comparing those that were winners and those that were losers. While some would call it pulling out all stops to keep their business, others might call it capitalization at work and yet others might call it feeding a need in a time of crisis.
For most small businesses though, there was no pivot opportunity. New priorities arose each day. Towards the end of March, it was how do I protect my staff and customers. As March rolled into April, it was how do I close my business and protect my assets. The priority that was immediate and almost just as quickly vanished was how do I enroll in government programs to help my business. Loan programs would appear one hour and then disappear faster than you could apply.(I have to wonder if some were just out there to look good.) If you had an office or store front, you had to work with your landlord to see if accommodations could be made. Utilities were turned off as the meter continue to go on things that no one knew when they could or would be re-opened. I saw one troll remark to a business owner, “since your business is closed, what else are you going to do with all of that time you now have? You should pivot. It could mean that your business survives or not.” The surviving was not in pivoting. Surviving was being able to handle all that was being thrown at business in a very short period of time. As I have mentioned to several, it took me more than 3 years to grow this business and less than 3 weeks to bring it all down.
As mandates and orders were relieved, problems just mounted. How do I open the store at just 25% capacity when rent, utilities, loans and other items are all still at 100%? Schools and day cares remain closed while confidence in interacting with the public is at a new low. Not only are people not going to be out and about, staff simply cannot come in due to having family or health conditions that would make them more susceptible. Is this what is called a pivot?
There was no pivot. There was no opportunity for a pivot. There were changes and there will continue to be changes, but the changes were big. Most were costly. This was not using the same ingredients to make something new. This was building something to meet the new world order.
Is pivot still relevant? Yes, at times, there can be useful pivots. And, some may have even been able to pivot within this environment to improve their offerings. For most small business owners, there was no pivot during this time. The pivot has effectively moved from being the catchphrase to just being cliche.