To Pivot Successfully: Start with Why!

Business is hard! Even in a booming economy, companies that don’t constantly pivot and adapt to changes in their industry, the economy, and the needs of their consumer can often go out of business as a result.  Throw in a global pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and more than 40 million jobless claims since the start of the pandemic, and many business owners are asking themselves, “What do I do now”? To develop your strategy, to pivot your business and emerge as a stronger organization on the other side of this crisis, business owners should not be asking themselves,  “WHAT do I do?” but rather, “WHY do I do it?”  Author Simon Sinek says great leaders start with why.  Why do you do what you do? What is your purpose? If you pivot based on WHAT, it stifles your creativity. If you pivot based on WHY, you will see all kinds of opportunities in this new world of COVID-19 to execute on your WHY and serve customers in entirely new ways.

Take Nike, for example. They are known primarily for making sneakers and other athletic apparel. They have thousands of physical stores across the world.  When the pandemic started in China, Nike was forced to close more than 5,000 of its 7,000 directly owned and partner-operated stores across China. If they pivoted based on what they do, the natural reaction would have been to pivot its focus from its retail stores to its online store.  While that may have been the end result, Nike didn’t build their strategy around promoting their apparel online. Instead, Nike started with their mission statement: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

As a result of going back to their mission statement, or their WHY, Nike’s staff first engaged with the Chinese consumers digitally by offering at-home workouts.  Between December 2019 and February 2020, Nike reported more than 35% growth in online sales in China.  Then, once its retail stores began to reopen, Nike’s digital business accelerated, even more, approaching triple-digit growth levels.  You see, Nike didn’t start by just selling athletic apparel online. It started by providing inspiration and innovation to athletes in China who were impacted by the pandemic. That inspiration and innovation then drove its digital sales. They pivoted based on their mission statement – their WHY – and the results speak for themselves.

Most companies are having to pivot their businesses as a result of the global pandemic. Next time you meet over a Zoom with your business advisors, take some time to focus on the why, and discover some new strategies for pivoting your business.