Part I: Five Questions to Ask Before Managing a Big Pivot
I was honored that Leadership Tallahassee recently asked me to lead a webinar for their “Tallahassee Leads Here” webinar series. This series is a great example of Leadership Tallahassee’s important role in our community. So many of us have “COVID overload,” so I decided to tackle the question so many of us are beginning to ask in both our personal and professional lives: “so what’s next?”
For many of us, the answer will be to manage a big pivot in the context of a challenging environment. And I know this from experience because I’ve already managed a big pivot in our business. Nearly a decade ago. And the best way to describe it is “rebuilding the plane at 30,000 feet.”
When I first joined my father, Powell, at Secure Records Solutions in 2011, the business was solely focused on storing paper records. However, the world was beginning to wake up to the idea of digital, and paper records were becoming less and less common. I knew it would be crucial to manage a big pivot in order for the business to survive into the next generation. First, we added shred trucks and routes to serve clients within a 100-mile radius of Tallahassee. Next, we started seeing a need for scanning of records for companies digitizing their processes, so we started offering scanning services. This opened up our market beyond the traditional 11 counties we served with physical deliveries. It was then that we realized scanning was extremely expensive and oftentimes unnecessary. So we created a document management solution that combined shredding, storage, and on-demand scanning. And when clients’ records were disorganized and mismanaged, we created a proprietary system of indexing. Today, we have a diversified revenue stream, which helps us better weather disruptions such as the one we’re experiencing now.
Before these pivots, there were five questions we asked ourselves. To learn what those questions are, I invite you to watch the video recording of the webinar or read a brief synopsis below:
Question 1: Are you a pilot or a passenger?
Of course, no one is in complete control. You cannot control the virus. You cannot control any limitations set on your organization by government or other officials. But, you can focus on what is within your control and take action there. Those who are poised to pivot aren’t waiting around for anyone to tell them what to do. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we haven’t waited for more stringent regulations or restrictions to be enforced. Instead, we accepted that changes we couldn’t control were coming and planned for them weeks before they were enforced. A few examples include:
Question 2: Are you willing to sacrifice in the short term for long term gain?
Financial security is generally a pre-requisite for making big changes to your business in a tough economy. Banks want to lend to people and businesses who have good credit and are financially stable and healthy. Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway once quipped, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” If the tide’s going out and you’re scrambling for some fig leaves, don’t get discouraged. Start now by making sacrifices to short term comforts to achieve longer-term goals.
Question 3: Do you have clearly defined values, standards and areas of expertise?
The third part of managing a big pivot is to ensure that you maintain your values and high standards. And to maintain them, you must know what they are in the first place. You must also know what your area of expertise is. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” You display your true values when times are difficult, in the way you interact with your team, your vendors, and your clients. It’s not just the right thing to do – it is the philosophical basis of a pivot. If you are trying to figure out what to do next, don’t jump on the bandwagon of whatever trends start to pop up. Your pivot needs to fit with your organization’s vision and values. Are you really going to manufacture PPE or deliver meals at home from now on? Set parameters for what you are looking for to stay focused and not simply follow what emerges in the post-COVID world.
Question 4: How Can Your Idea Fit into the New Normal?
While your pivot must be true to your business, it must also fit the current environment. This is an important distinction. This doesn’t mean jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is hot in the “Post-COVID era,” but it must meet the standards of the new normal that is emerging. The business parable “Who Moved My Cheese?” illustrates this perfectly. Spoiler alert for those who aren’t familiar, but the thesis is this: You have to be able to see past what was in order to see what is and what will be.
Question 5: What are people looking for that you are uniquely qualified to do?
This brings together all the other questions and helps create a thesis to guide your path and answer the question, “so now what?” As an example, for SRS, our answer to this question is, “SRS is leveraging our current infrastructure, particularly in the areas of finance, marketing, sales, logistics, and management, to grow inorganically via mergers or acquisitions.”
What is yours?
In Part II of this series, which we’ll release next week, we will go into the answers of the breakout sessions from the webinar series, where we tackled some of Tallahassee’s biggest industries and how they can answer this question in the “new normal.”