April 21, 2016

Flexible Start-Ups

Planning is always an important part of being successful in business. It’s no different when starting a business, having a plan is a critical element. It’s also important to understand that no plan can truly anticipate everything that will be thrown at you, particularly in the early days of your business. So, as important as it is to have a plan, it’s also important to be flexible about making changes to your plan. Recently, entrepreneurial flexibility has been referred to as a ‘pivot’ and many entrepreneurs have made some dramatic ‘pivots’ to their original plan in order to correct course and capture value for their business.

Here are a few examples of famously flexible start-ups:

Twitter made one of the most legendary pivots in social media history. Started as Odeo, a network where people could find and subscribe to podcasts, the founders saw that iTunes had began taking over the podcast niche. Rather than take on the Apple juggernaut, the company decided to make a drastic change and run with another idea, a status-updating micro-blogging platform. Thus, Twitter was born.

Wrigley didn’t always sell gum, they stumbled on the value of gum while giving it away for free. Mr. Wrigley Jr. offered free chewing gum with purchases of baking powder and soap. The gum proved to be popular and Wrigley went on to manufacture his own chewing gum brands. Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint gum now gross billions in revenue and are some of the most recognizable brands in American history.

Starbucks started off in 1971 selling espresso makers and coffee beans. After his visit to Italy in 1983, Chairman Howard Schultz was determined to actually brew and sell Starbucks coffee in a European-style coffeehouse. Seemingly overnight, Starbucks was transformed from hardware and bean seller into the nationwide retail sensation it is today.

Perhaps a new opportunity appears that wasn’t in your plan. Successful entrepreneurs understand how to ‘pivot’ and capture value that wasn’t anticipated. It could be something you missed in your original plans, like the need for additional equipment or talent. Markets are ‘fluid’ and can shift dramatically, changing your value proposition in the time between plan development and implementation. As disconcerting as unanticipated changes can be, remember that change is a constant and should be embraced not fought or ignored.


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