I stumbled across this blog post about an 11 year old company called Vertical Response and the change their company is now going through. This is a company that has done very well for 11 years until one day they realized if they didn’t ‘pivot’ they would fall behind technologically, lose their hard-earned customers and become a relic of the past. CEO Janine Popick discusses why she’s afraid of the ‘Pivot’ and understandably so. She’s not afraid of changing so much as ‘change management’ or the process of overseeing the change. Here is what she had to say and why it is so relevant to today’s law firms:
What we’re going through is what some in the tech and start-up world might call a pivot*. It’s a turn in a new direction and acknowledging that some fundamental things need to change so that the company–and our technology, in my case–can grow. All businesses–whether you’re large or small, young or old, in tech or not–need to embrace some form of a pivot at some point, because what’s worked in the past probably won’t work in the future. And while it might be scary to steer your company into unknown territory (and scary for your employees because you’re shaking up the status quo), the consequences of being stagnant might even be scarier.
This is the experience of law firms who have been around for awhile. Some succeed in pivoting. Others fail because they refuse to pivot. For the solo it’s a mixed blessing. It’s fantastic if you are just starting out today because you can embrace all that is new from the moment you decide to open your practice. “New’ becomes the foundation of your practice and the decisions you make will incorporate the latest approaches to doing business which will also embrace the professionally meaningful, responsible and profitable trends. You may also be required to pivot many times down the road as you find the right direction for your practice. It is a concept you need to embrace in theory and in practice.
For those who started out five or more years ago, what’s new is old in many ways because the speed at which technology (and now social media and marketing) and the economy have changed makes your need to pivot even more critical. And for the solo this concept of change management can be terrifying because you’ve finally reached a point where your business is doing well (or not), your systems are in place and the amount of time it will take to change your systems (or practice area) and relearn new ones while serving your clients can be daunting. As a result you are more likely than not going to kick the can down the road to avoid doing what you know you must do. You then will make the excuses, knock the technologies, knock those who would encourage you to pivot, and argue against your own business interests to avoid doing that which must be done. But as Janine says, ‘while it might be scary to steer your company into unknown territory…the consequences of being stagnant might even be scarier.”
Have you reached your pivot point? Have you already pivoted? How are you managinging the change?
*A pivot is an exchange sacrifice. You are exchanging the current advantages you hold for a different set of advantages. (Pivot – when used in the context of business strategy)