Friday, 15 May 2020

  • Key for entrepreneurs to accept what they cannot change & where they can make a difference
  • Meticulous examination must be performed on the competencies of every team member

Pivot…pivot!… pivot!!

I ushered the month of May with the grim memories of March 18 – the day the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced due to the swelling Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia.

The country came to an abrupt halt, ensued by a resounding aftershock of distress signals by every facet of society – all within the first 48 hours of the MCO.  The echoes of distress permeated news networks and every corner of the Internet.

Textbook case-studies came to life as we witnessed first-hand how multinational corporations and mature establishments were triggering their business continuity plans in the face of a crisis. Parallel to that, it was disheartening to read personal accounts of daily wage-earners, the plight of micro-entrepreneurs and countless SMEs that were struggling against the sudden impasse of activity, placing sustenance and livelihoods at stake.

Amid the gloomy economy emerged a tinge of hope, as pockets of affected individuals and businesses began discovering new ways to stay afloat – mostly by leveraging on technology. These new digital adopters were making fundamental changes to their operations and life, defining the very essence of pivoting.

Contingency Plan ≠ Pivoting

Pivoting is a strategy commonly linked to the agility of startups to perpetually morph their business plans according to market needs, customer sentiments, new gaps to tap and sprouting problems that demand solutions.

With Covid-19 forcing everyone into uncharted territory, the term pivot has been trending in our business community. In the context of the present pandemic, pivoting could mean taking all that you have learned, people and culture that you have cultivated, and connections that you have established – and finding a new way to repurpose them.

While easier said than done, I am a living example of a person who has reinvented himself three times over the span of three decades. Each fresh beginning offered a multitude of opportunities that propelled me to unimaginable pastures. Here is how you can begin pivoting your business, in four pragmatic steps.

1. Mind over matter

I am reminded of the profound words of Mahatma Gandhi – “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” We do not need to be an authority in neuroscience to profess the sheer importance of willpower, courage and determination – core traits of an entrepreneur. Rise above the noise and be guided by a clear conscience that your forthcoming actions are vital for improvement and progress. This is the first and most crucial step towards making a fundamental change, be it in business or your personal life.

2. Deep dive stocktake

Inventory aside, this step entails delving into the atoms and molecules of your present setup to ascertain the readiness-level of your business to pivot its model.

While a customary SWOT analysis may sound like a plausible start, a meticulous examination must be performed on the competencies of every team member and their reception towards change, the need for training and culture shift, critical assessment on the financial health and liquidable assets, as well as access to credible market intelligence and a network of strategic alliances.

Consider preserving functions and processes that still work, as pivoting does not necessarily imply discarding proven processes and to start from scratch.

3. Definitive problem statements

This step may have been a key motivating factor to pivot your business – the opportunity to address a new issue or condition that necessitates improvement. Begin by immersing yourself in the problem to have a near 20/20 vision of the extent of the issue and the impact it could have in the short and long run. This will help address the viability and sustainability of your pivot plan.

Take for instance the recent call by our health authorities to have a contact tracing app to track the spread of Covid-19… a critical issue but not one that would warrant a business to pivot its entire model and solely address this transient need.

Worthy to mention, it is important for entrepreneurs to accept what they cannot change, and to look at areas where they can make a difference.

4. Go for the kill!

You have laboriously explored every nook and cranny of the problem and even pinned an addressable market to enter. However, there is no time to build a perfect product or service that addresses every concern of the problem.

The utmost priority at this point is to be at the forefront of the action and to stay ahead of all competitors. Ideals aside; entrepreneurs are serial innovators and calculative risk-takers who are constantly rolling out improvisations to their solutions. After that, there is only one thing left for you to do – be brave, believe in your idea and quickly set it into motion. Speed-to-market is crucial to stay ahead in the game.

If done right, pivoting will not only bring in fresh customers and new revenue streams, but it will give you an edge in the game against competitors. This, to me, is the epitome of success and if lady luck is on your side, you may even be presented with the opportunity to change the rules of the game. Think big and aim high.

What’s Next?

The next installment of #GopiSpeaks will be themed on ‘pace over perfection’, where I will share how MDEC instinctively went into-triage mode within the first week of the MCO to support our people and businesses that were (and still are) affected by the enforced restrictions. There are several learnings that I wish to share from our ‘offline to online’ initiatives, which will serve to inspire entrepreneurs to think on their feet and act responsively.

Gopi Ganesalingam, Vice President of Global Growth Acceleration at MDEC is a qualified finance professional with over 30 years of professional experience in Finance, Commercial and Business Development.

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