Like any career, being an entrepreneur has a bit of a learning curve. As new entrepreneurs become accustomed to their new work and decide on a business plan, making a misstep or two isn’t out of the ordinary. When entrepreneurs face these missteps they have the opportunity to “pivot,” or flip their company in a different direction from what they had originally intended. Three entrepreneurs at The Hurt Hub@Davidson — Andrew Ashur, Mike Murphy and Bill May — shared their stories of when they had to pivot and what they learned.
Andrew Ashur, CEO and co-founder of Lucid Drones— a student-founded company which uses drones to clean buildings. Their pivot was a response to information they were receiving from the market.
“Without getting too far into the weeds of our specific business, we had spent half a year targeting one specific type of customer, only to realize that these individuals did not reap the benefits of what our product/service offers, and the benefits carried over to third-parties.” Ashur said.
This lead Ashur and the rest of the Lucid team to change who they were targeting their business to. Now, their company is working on continuing to grow their business and incorporating what they learned from their pivot into their new business plan.
“One of our biggest learning lessons was the need to regularly schedule opportunities to reflect upon the trajectory of the company in order to garner a more profound understanding of whether or not the current course of action will be the most successful.”
ProctorFree, a company that provides proctors for online education to prevent cheating, went through a similar process as Lucid. The CEO and co-founder of ProctorFree, Murphy, described its pivot and how — like Lucid — one of its original assumptions failed.
ProctorFree is a company that provides proctors for online education to prevent cheating. Murphy explained, originally, the business didn’t want to integrate with the learning management systems, or softwares which helps school manage their online education, the schools already had in place.
“It only takes the first 90 meetings of people asking ‘Do you integrate?’ to realize that there needs to be a change. The assumption that we made was wrong,” Murphy said.
It’s these early stages companies should think about the different directions they can take their companies. Murphy says that pivoting is something that most early entrepreneurs should be thinking about,
“If you are pre-revenue, the stakes are lower, pivoting is fine. Those are the times you should be poking holes in your theories and assumptions.”
Bill May, founder of Sweet Relish (a company which helps other businesses book more appointments), also commented on the value of pivoting.
“Some people think pivot is a bad word, however, through the evolution of any company you have to pivot. The secret of pivoting is that you don’t want to do a need jerk pivot. You want to be strategic.”
Sweet Relish went through its pivot early in the establishment of the company. May found his company not only needed to provide the software to achieve its goals but also had to open a call center as clients were having trouble following up fast enough with these new needs.
Ashur, Murphy and May all used these “failed” assumptions to pull their companies in directions that promised more revenue and growth.
One of the ways to have the most productive or strategic pivot is to make sure you’re taking the right information away from the experience. For those who need to pivot, Murphy suggests looking back and asking , “How did we get to this point? Why did we get this wrong? Is it an ineffective management team? Am I lacking expertise?”
By asking the right questions entrepreneurs can be more effective in the future to avoid having any pivots.
Pivoting can seem very discouraging. For those entrepreneurs thinking they might need to pivot, Ashur has advice.
“As a young entrepreneur, you will face a lot of challenges in the business world, as it is impossible to be in expert from the start in marketing, product development, raising capital, etc. However, with a growth mindset that is grounded in a voracious appetite for learning and a love for working through challenges, the obstacles can seem less daunting.”
By Lucy Fasano ’21, Resident Storyteller at The Hurt Hub.