January 8, 2021

The Art of the Pivot

by Brian Laliberte, Esq., Laliberte LLC

The definition of “pivot” is “to turn.” I’ve been thinking about all the pivots that have occurred since March 2020 and all those that continue to be made as the novel coronavirus causes us to rethink how we operate personally and professionally. I was in the midst of a pivot from the full time practice of law after 20 years to venture capital when the pandemic halted my fundraising.

I pivoted again. I leveraged the experience and judgment I honed over the course of my legal career and a set of new skills developed during my mid-career MBA studies at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business to create two new firms: a fractional general counsel platform and a consulting firm focused on early stage technology companies and small and medium sized businesses. I did this out of necessity to survive the economic turmoil created by the pandemic.

Here are some thoughts about how to execute a successful pivot.

Assess your current circumstances and context realistically and objectively. If you aren’t scared witless at this point, you have to do something even scarier: view volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous circumstances as an opportunity. At the same time, you must be wary of the threats presented in your specific situation and account for them in your decision to pivot and in executing your ultimate strategy.

Identify your competitive advantage. Ask yourself: what makes you, or your firm, better at or more uniquely capable of delivering value to your clients or customers that they will choose you over your rivals? This requires a lot of self-awareness and a willingness to be radically honest about the space in which you operate professionally and who you are and what you want personally. Once you identify your advantage, you can organize around it.

State your objectives. What is it that you want to achieve in your pivot given the competitive advantage you identified? What is your desired end state? Once you know these things, you can muster and align your resources to create and deliver the value that attracts and retains clients and customers to you and your firm.

Focus on hitting your chosen competitive sweet spot. Create and deliver value in your own distinct way. Do this consistently and exceptionally.

Behave consistently with your objectives. Commit to your pivot and execute.

Invest in yourself. Take the time you need to improve your substantive skills and add new ones. Sustain your focus and energy by doing the things you love when you’re not at the office.

Inspire your people to invest their time, energy, and talent. Give them the resources to execute the pivot. Support and reward them.

Check your work. Plan, do, check, adjust, adapt. Do this iteratively to continuously improve your ability to pivot successfully. A pivot is evolutionary and never ends. It is as dramatic and necessary as all of the previous stages of a pivot. It requires you to continually adapt, improve, innovate, grow, and apply all of your capabilities.

Persevere. Despite the challenges, believe in yourself and your team. Know that if you don’t succeed, you’ll gain additional skills and build resilience that will set you up for future success.

Pay it forward. When you succeed, help others who can benefit from your experience.

Ask yourself: what makes you, or your firm, better at or more uniquely capable of delivering value to your clients or customers that they will choose you over your rivals?