Productivity / Growth

What’s a pivot and is it time for your business to do one?

The world of business is evolving at such a mad rate, it’s rare for any business to be able to maintain profits while sitting still. So how do we all keep up?

20 May 2015 by

There is a new catchword in the online business world: Pivot.

That comes from the fact that, these days, the online business world is not driven by what the business and investors want; it is driven by the customer. We business owners and investors may set up our business as one thing but, find ourselves changing to another concept altogether thanks to customer input.

In short, what your customer wants and thinks is fundamental to the success of your business and you need to be ready and able to ‘pivot’ to match this when and where necessary.

Here are some high-profile examples of businesses who have done a business pivot:

"Many successful businesses have been an ‘accidental success’. They are now a very different business to what they originally created after they ‘pivoted’."

Facebook started out as Facemash, a university membership site featuring ‘hot or not’ photo comparisons of fellow students that members could vote on. Facemash showed Mark Zuckerbeg that people liked being able to comment and converse socially online … and from these learnings, Facebook was born.

YouTube was conceived by a few guys at a dinner party who originally decided to make an online video dating site. After two significant world events (Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction and the Asian tsunami), they realised the world wanted a way to share videos amongst themselves and others and ended up setting up what we now know as the current YouTube.

Starbucks did not start out making coffee. It started out by selling coffee beans and espresso machines. People wanted to taste the beans and, voila! They found their real business which is the current coffee shop franchise.

The key to the success of all these businesses? They all pivoted. Why? Because they listened to their customers.

So is it time for YOUR business to pivot?

Given my business is in the middle of one right now, our story might help you decide. Here’s what we’ve learned from our customers over the past few years and what is driving our current business pivot:

1. Simple does not mean childlike

When we set up our legal business website six years ago, we thought people were scared off by the complexity of lawyers and legal templates and would relate to the opposite: easy, basic and accessible with bright colours and childlike images. So we used a childlike font and colourful images.

Short story: it did not work.

The first version of our website was what we thought our customers wanted. Our second (most recent) version was what our clients told us they wanted.

Unsurprisingly, it resonated immediately.

2. Online people buy online

When you try to sell something like a Will template online, you are really trying to do two things:

  1. Trying to convince a person to buy a Will template; and
  2. Trying to convince a person to buy a product or service online.

Here’s the problem: older people buy Wills. But older people do not buy online.

It turned out our most enthusiastic customers were running start-ups. As many of these start-ups were online businesses themselves, they were ready and raring to purchase online products. So we listened. And we restructured our product offering to match their requirements.

3. Your business must evolve constantly

In addition to the above, we’ve also come to realise that the products our customers are telling us they need right now are not necessarily the products they’ll need in a year or two’s time. In fact we’re already preparing for another major change to our business which is in progress for launch in a few months.

So it appears that no matter what space your business is in, you have to be prepared to be nimble and adaptive in order to meet the demands of your customers and how they want your goods and services to be delivered to them.

Have you had to pivot in your business?  Would love to hear your story!

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.


  • Lucinda Lions

    Hi Vanessa, it was fascinating reading the stories about Facebook, Starbucks and YouTube. If they hadn’t pivoted they might have plummeted, which is of course one of the important messages in your article. Thanks also for sharing your own personal pivot. As someone who has used your services, I can’t wait to find out what’s in store! Lucinda 🙂

    • Vanessa Emilio

      Thank you Lucinda! it is interesting to hear how others started out and ‘pivoted’! Curious: have you had to do this in your business at all?

  • I think this is both the most exciting … and frustrating thing about the business world. You never really get to sit on your laurels do you? Things change so fast and so constantly all businesses HAVE to evolve and pivot else they get left behind so quick. I do admire the mega pivots though – the complete move from one type of business to another!

    • Vanessa Emilio

      Agree! Too many people who set up their businesses do so and think they can wait for the business to roll in-or when it does, do nothing as a result and their business stagnates. The exciting and difficult thing is that you need to be flexible and move with your business=constantly!

  • Nicely done Vanessa. Great to hear about how your own business adapted to gain attractiveness amongst startups. The economy is so dynamic across all industries that you simply can’t afford to operate under a stagnant “set and forget” model.

    • Vanessa Emilio

      Thank you Kapil-it’s something many business owners do not realise or are not ready to do-be flexible and adapt to the changing market or client requests that are not exactly what their original business model contemplated. I don’t suggest compromising entirely at all but rather recognising opportunities and being ready to respond if it is where your business and your interests lie. You have to evolve to match business needs and client demands or you may find yourself left behind!

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