Pivoting for career success

Should you keep following the same career path regardless, or should you consider pivoting to achieve new success? We can learn something about this from venture capitalists. And after all our careers were all startups once.

Pivot. Traction. VCs love these words. For the people who funded projects in the last funding cycle, the idea was the thing. They funded Powerpoints –ideas that had been dreamed up but not yet been executed. They invested in the fevered presentations and projections of the founders.

But today the cost of creating an online application or resource has become so very affordable, the VCs want to see the idea brought to life and to market before they put serious money in to bring it to scale. They want to see that the idea has traction – that is to say it can grip the road and move forwards.
But they know that when ideas are being developed to serve markets that don’t actually exist yet, which is the case for most new online businesses, then there is no reliable or even responsible way to project. After all what did the future mail order book market look like before Jeff Bezos gave us Amazon?

So the second word comes into play: pivot. Once the business idea is in the market it often becomes apparent that it is not quite the best thing to be doing or the most effective way to approach the opportunity (or create the opportunity). It isn’t gaining enough traction. So the VCs want the team to be able to pivot and move to an alternative plan. They don’t want to cut their losses and move on. They don’t want to start again with another group of founders. They want the project to pivot to address the new thinking.

The key to this, they say, is the people. VCs invest in people who are not only driven and passionate and smart and all that – they also want to see that they have the ability to pivot. Preferably they would like to see a history of successful pivoting. The founder who sticks stubbornly with the original plan and refuses to learn from the market and the real world is not as attractive to a VC who needs a return on investment and doesn’t want to wait for too long for the world to catch up to an inflexible and blinkered founder.

So they pivot in response to lack of traction. (Don’t you love it!?)

So does your career still have sufficient traction? Are you open to considering some course that may be more effective for you? And in this “ever changing world in which we live in” are you on your toes and addressing the opportunities? It’s the same idea as for the startup investments: see what gets traction – and when necessary pivot to address the changing environment as you take your career to scale.