By Bernie Dixon
As an entrepreneur, being able to pivot your business is an absolute necessity when forming, growing and scaling a business. But when you overreact, a pivot that is intended to be an adjustment (albeit major adjustment) to your business becomes a panic. We all know leaders and CEOs who overreact. Every strand of information becomes actionable and there appears to be no filter or prioritization to actions. The effect on the organization that is constantly whipped by the overreaction of its leaders can be devasting. With constant redirection, the organization may never build any real momentum or critical mass for change. Worse yet, team members may become frustrated, burn out or simply quit.
Making adjustments or pivoting your business even in times of economic or market chaos requires the thoughtfulness of leadership. The execution of change needs to be focused, rapid and yield results. The challenge for leaders is to communicate the need for an adjustment and the plan itself while getting the buy-in from the team. The current crisis situation is a test for any CEO to make the drastic changes required for business survival. Also it is an exciting time for strong leaders. This is when you can move quickly. This is a great time to galvanize the organization around a specific goal even if that goal is survival of the business. This is when leadership really counts.
Judith Levey, (LP2X 2018) is Founder and President of DesireList. I spoke to her recently about how she and her team at DesireList are managing a pivot during the COVID-19 crisis. As a former executive at a global consumer products company she was conditioned to anticipate market changes and even planning for “all eventualities.” She brought that experience with her when she founded her company in 2015. Here’s the top 5 factors that have allowed her company to thrive during this crisis.
Teamwork Really Does Make the Dreamwork
It’s not merely a saying uttered at team-building workshops. It’s truth. The ability of our team to pull together and steer our ship towards success is ultimately what is determining whether we sink or swim. As the realization hit that this crisis would be with us for an indefinite period, we gathered the team to align on the state of the union for our business and everyone’s role moving forward. While there is uncertainty at a global scale, it was important that there was not uncertainty among our team.
Understand your Value
Times of crisis are not the time for a start-up to “stay the course”. It is the time to understand the current reality and adapt our offerings and support in that reality.
As we began to understand our new normal, we looked at our business and asked what we can contribute to the world right now. What do we have that people need at a time like this? For DesireList the answer is content. Our Pro community of fitness trainers, yoga instructors, nutritionists, makeup artists and more are being forced to get creative and take their businesses online. This creates exactly the kind of content consumers want and the exposure that brands need right now. And so, we’ve created DesireList TV – a one-stop destination to watch live and pre-recorded lessons, tutorials and product recommendations from top Pros in fitness, cooking, beauty and more. Whether it becomes a long-term strategy is yet to be seen. For now it is a business pivot that allows us to capitalize on our value and drive revenue growth.
Embrace Speed Over Perfection
Launching a streaming platform in one-week requires speed, which comes at the expense of perfection. Our priority is getting the product to market, with all its imperfections. In record time, a landing page, email campaign and promotional ads were pulled together. It could be cleaner and tighter, yet the most important thing is to get it to market and measure performance. There will be plenty of time for perfecting.
Because we do not know how long this crisis will last, a key part of making it to the other side is having sufficient runway to ride the storm. When the crisis broke, we sequestered our team with our CFO and looked at ALL expenses. We reassessed what is fixed and what is flexible. We paused every non-essential expenditure to ensure that all spend is being funneled directly into making DesireList TV a success. Everything else was dropped from our attention. Bernie recommended that repeatedly in her survival tips. Things that seemed critical 4 weeks ago are not even on the table for discussion. Survival is top priority.
Belief, Persistence and a Large Dose of Hustle
Fundamentally belief and persistence are what separate the winners from the losers in the start-up game. You may have a great idea, product/market fit, and funding – but, at the end of the day, it is the people that truly believe in their ideas, step up, and persist to make them a reality that ultimately win.
2 weeks ago, DesireList TV wasn’t a “thing”. Now it’s an online streaming platform, broadcasting live and pre-recorded content throughout the day from top Pros around the world. To get from zero to here, required belief, persistence and A WHOLE LOT of hustle. You can tune in to DesireList TV for the best classes, tutorials and product recommendations from Top Pros who are also getting creative and adapting to a new digital world.
Bernie P. Dixon is Founder and Chairman of Launchpad2X, a founder-to-CEO accelerator training program for women entrepreneurs. Find her on LinkedIn.