Erhan Erkut and Steve Blank
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Entrepreneurs Do Not Abort or Avoid Changes, They Pivot

This article is written by Mohammad Eslim, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

Dr. Erhan Erkut received a BSc in Industrial Engineering from Bogazici University in 1980 and a Ph.D. University of Alberta School of Business during 1985-2005. He is a member of the Canadian Operational Research Society. Dr. Erkut has established a Center for Excellence in Management and Management.

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur based in Pescadero, California.

Blank is recognized for developing the Customer Development method that launched the Lean Startup movement, a methodology which recognized that startups are not smaller versions of large companies, but require their own set of processes and tools to be successful. His Lean Launchpad class (taught as the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps) has become the standard for commercialization for all federal research. They were both at Startup Istanbul, where they talked about pivoting in entrepreneurship.

Know when you go about something the wrong way and it goes into an epic failure you feel the need to just let it go and head the opposite direction, as in what-you-made-caused-you-thousands epic failure? Well then, unlucky you will have to suck it up if you want to be an entrepreneur.

Success never comes easy is the truest fact you may ever know about life, if you want it you work hard for it, if it doesn’t come first you keep trying until you get it. And this is the spirit you have to embrace and work it throughout your entrepreneurial career and what may come after. So here is how it goes for entrepreneurs anywhere they work, whether in a company or in a business of heir own. 

Entrepreneurs have this smart idea, they study it and collect data and write it down into a plan that is not a business plan, then they start do the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) which is NOT a disfeatured product by the way, and work it according to the facts and directions their collected data lead to.

Behold, the business started up well for few months then your feedback is coming in negative, the results are not as expected, the customers you thought you knew are not even potential customers and the data streaming in is not what it was when you started, even your sales are under their minimum.  

In normal companies and corporates, this is a complete loss of resources that calls for a board meeting with old men basically are sitting there blaming you for wasting the money they invested in the company that is demanded to keep up with and follow up according to the business plan they approved of in the first place. So here come two important questions: who’s or what is to blame, the employee or the plan? And do you abort the project, product, service or take the risk of changing into it?

First thing is to accept that failure isn’t something to fear, it is something to move on from to a better opportunity with a marvelous experience no matter how many times you face it. Once the fear is gone and you fully accepted that failure is a part of success you will find yourself reforming and reshaping your previous experiences into a more efficient one.  

In entrepreneurship you are never to drop your idea if you believe in it but still faced failure. You go with it using another approach to execute it, it is all about execution as we know, and this is why we have to mention that entrepreneurs, unlike companies, create their own business model while companies choose which business model to follow. And so find a way around it to make it not just more attractive but to also pivot. 

Now don’t you go saying pivoting is the same as dropping or aborting the idea before it sees success, because it’s not! Pivot is NOT changing the idea, neither it’s changing the product; it’s to do a substantive change to one or more business model components. It’s more like a change in the customers’ type you are targeting, or you got out of the building and learn through data new something about a part of the business model you have to change.

Another piece about the pivot is that you have 72 hours hold on any pivot until you take time discussing this pivot with the board, some advisors and some mentors in order to not juggle your company. So think carefully as it’s a big of a change whether to engineering, sales or any other part. 

For investors, it doesn’t matter how obsolete your business plan is or what does the new data from customers suggest, for you have to execute per plan and that might lead to unwanted results. This usually leads to a series of firing people where all we could have done is firing the plan, another pivot.  

In the lean startup methodology it is important to realize that initial assumptions are a series of unknowns which are rarely correct, so make a pivot when your plan isn’t working as supposed to. Don’t be afraid, for success brings investors and network.

─ April 23, 2019