How to Pivot Your Business

My friend Tara Reed is both a great artist and a savvy businesswoman, and that second part is no small task as the term “starving artist” is a thing for a reason. We all know one.

But not Tara.

Tara has succeeded because, among other things, she knows how to pivot – probably like you might need to do right now.

Like any good entrepreneur, Tara has a few different profit centers:

  • On her busy Etsy shop, she bundles and sells her digital art and files to crafters
  • On her website (, she not only promotes patterns that she designs, but she licenses those designs to manufacturers who end up using them for products sold in stores like Home Goods.

Tara has a new fabric collection shipping this month, and as part of that, she gets a free bolt of each of the 12 designs in the line for her use in promoting the collection. But, as you can imagine, promoting a new line of fabric is no easy task right now, what with the pandemic and all.

And then it hit her.

Tara saw a video about how to sew face masks, desperately needed in her community like so many others. And, given that she had a lot of fabric on hand, she got to work.

Not only was this a chance to give back, and not only is “sewing therapeutic,” but from a business perspective, this was a chance to showcase her fabric in a unique way. To date, she has not only sewn and given away more than 100 masks, but she has also made directions and a pdf for use by others who want to help too.

(Note, while these are not the n-95 masks doctors and nurses need, cloth masks are still needed by home healthcare clinicians, physical therapists, etc.)

As I said, like Tara, you might need to think on your feet and pivot right now too. Here’s are the steps to take:

1. Recognize you need to pivot: Now, in normal circumstances, realizing that you need to make a change, a pivot, may take time, but today, if you think you need to pivot, you do.

2. Hone in on new goals: If a pivot is needed, the next step is to find a realistic new direction that you can pivot towards. Unfortunately, in an exigent moment like this, there is not a lot of time to dig deep. What you have to do is quickly come up with a Plan B.

Is there a market for this new direction? Are there customers? Do you have the resources to do this or can you get them? How will you need to change? Work with your team, speak with your customers, solicit advice from advisors, and get moving.

3. Make the change from within: Start implementing these changes. This varies from business to business, but ultimately what this means is:

  • Getting buy-in from your team
  • Re-aligning structurally

Example: For what seems like forever, Microsoft was a behemoth that installed bulky software on desktops. As tastes, technology, Amazon, the cloud, and the Internet grew, this business model got increasingly creaky, lame.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer knew it, but it took their protégé, Satya Nadella to come up with and implement a bold new pivot. Stuffy Microsoft would become a nimble cloud-based, software-as-a-service provider.

Talk about trying to get a supertanker to head in a new direction.

But Nadella and his team did it. Starting at least four years behind Amazon’s cloud business, at that time almost 90% of Microsoft’s business was focused on Windows. But Nadella was clear: a big change was needed, and you were either in or out. “Nadella said there would be only “fixers,” no “complainers.” If people didn’t buy into his vision, he’d tell them, “Time to move on.” (Bloomberg.)

Your team has to buy in. Period.

4. Try, try again: Now is the time to be bold and nimble. Don’t get invested in anything but results. See what works and double down on that.

So, does pivoting work? You tell me:

Today, Microsoft is the most valuable company in the world.


Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is the senior small business columnist at USA TODAY, the Editor-in-Chief here at Small Business Connection, a speaker and spokesperson. He can be reached at

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