If you can't pivot, tack


If you can't pivot, tack



When discussing the difficulties of running a business during the COVID-19 crisis, many have urged us to "pivot". Pivoting, in the sense that you need to alter what you do, or change the direction your company is taking. In a recent Facebook posting, the idea of business pivoting was taken to task, and an alternative was suggested.


The word “pivot” can be used as either a noun or a verb. When used as a noun, pivot is defined as “the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates”. When used as a verb, it can be defined as to “turn or balance on a central point”.


The Facebook author used a couple of analogies that I found insightful. In the first analogy, he looked to the game of basketball. When a player stops and pivots, he or she is not allowed to move again. They must either take the shot, or pass the ball. They are essentially stuck, especially when being guarded by an opposing player. In the case of business, the opposing player is your competition, and they are forcing you to make a quick decision, under duress. Not an ideal situation.


If you stop and pivot quickly enough, you can implement your next move before your opponent can react. However, if you’re not sure what your next move should be, or if the players on the court or in your business sphere are not in positions advantageous to your plan, you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.


The second analogy, the art of tacking, comes into play in those business situations where you find yourself at a disadvantage. During the current pandemic, a majority of businesses can fall into this category.


Rhode Island, being the Ocean State, is big on sailing. In fact, the world’s premier sailing competition, the America’s Cup, is frequently held in Rhode Island’s waters.


Any weekend sailor can get to their destination with a good breeze at their back. It’s when the winds change, or are in your face, that the real sailors step up. The skilled sailor knows that they must now tack with the wind. They must bend the wind to their will, using what it gives them to advance. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t quick, but when faced with unfavorable conditions, it will get you where you need to go.


In light of the pandemic, we all must take a page out of the sailor’s handbook. Rather then pivot, we need to know how to tack. Take what is given to us under adverse conditions and move forward. If you’re not sure how to tack, there are a lot of business sailors who can show you how. No life jacket required.