“The Pivot”

A friend of mine has a new software solution to help hospitals better plan nurse shifts. It works really well, and he’s gotten some nice early adoption.

Question: What’s his business?

Well, sure, it’s nurse shift software. But I’ll argue that it’s still too early to really know what his business is, as he hasn’t yet been presented with the strategic choice that will really illustrate what his business is. It’s what I call the “Pivot.”

Now let’s fast forward two years. Assume he’s going gangbusters, and getting lots of profitable clients, but starting to run out of hospitals to approach. To keep growing, he needs to expand past the nurse shift software.

Let’s pose the question again – What is is his business?

The way to answer that is by seeing how he will expand:

a) Create other software for hospitals
b) Adapt the scheduling software for different clients

Will he pivot off customers and create new solutions for the same overall customers, or pivot off the product and find entirely new clients? This is a central strategic choice. If the former, then it’s a hospital solutions company. If the latter, then it’s a scheduling software company.

That’s how you really know what your business is – by deciding not just where you are now – your location, but where you’re headed – your direction.

It’s easy to get so involved in your startup that you don’t sit back and think about where you’re headed, and all-too-often, it can be the allure of a big contract that will pull you in one specific direction, sometimes a direction that turns out in the long term to not be where you wanted to go.

So take some time early on and think about your pivot – because the day could well come much sooner than you think when you need to know where you’re going.

Another advantage to figuring out your pivot early on is that it always helps to know where you’re going so that you can lay the groundwork early on.

Finally, it helps to have follow through. I saw an interview once with a karate black belt who would chop through boards and such. He was asked what he was thinking when his hand came down on the boards. He replied that he was visualizing his hand having already successfully gone through the boards.

So think about this in terms of your current business, or when you launch your next startup.

What is your business?