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These Companies Mastered the Art of the Pivot. Here’s How.

By , December 1, 2020

This year is obviously different. But companies that acted fast to pivot their offerings emerged stronger than ever.

As a business owner, I know that the economic upheaval we are all living through presents great challenges. But years from now, when people analyze how the world’s most successful businesses survived the storm, there is little doubt in my mind that 2020 will become known as “The Year of the Pivot.”

I was recently listening to an interview with the Vice President of Brand Marketing for the national restaurant chain, Chipotle. It struck me that while the food service industry has been all but decimated as countless restaurants struggle or fail worldwide, Chipotle’s profits are currently hitting all-time highs. How did they do it?

Chipotle not only pivoted incredibly quickly, it went all in. “Digital kitchens” dedicated exclusively to fulfilling online orders became the new standard at their brick and mortar locations. “Chipotlanes,” drive-thru lanes designed purely for fast, contactless pickup, were added nationwide. Their new model proved so successful that Chipotle announced last May that it would hire 8,000 new employees, then another 10,000 more in July.

But they’re far from the only one. As demand has soared for essential products, consumer-goods powerhouse Unilever has pivoted to prioritize its packaged food, surface cleaners, and personal hygiene product brands over other products, such as skin care, where demand has fallen. Faced by the sudden collapse in travel, Airbnb now gives hosts the ability to offer online events focused on cooking, meditation, art therapy, magic, songwriting, virtual tours, and many other activities, with users joining for a modest fee. And these are just a few examples.

There is so much we all can learn from these inspiring success stories, but here are three Ptex Practical Pointers for pivoting in a time of crisis or uncertainty.

1. Embrace change.

This doesn’t have to mean drastic change that shakes your business to its core. It means keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers’ needs and attitudes and how those changes are reflected in their spending patterns. Pivoting might mean targeting a new audience, offering additional products or services, or changing the way you deliver your current products or services—such as moving your business online. (In June 2020 alone, online sales grew 76% and is predicted to reach 14.5% of total retail sales in 2020—an all-time high.)

2. Be decisive.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that successfully leading a business means you must constantly be agile, ready to change gears quickly in a fast-moving economy. Don’t let endless team meetings bog down your decision to pivot—gather your team’s input early on, consider the pros and cons, choose a direction, get your team on board, and go all in.

3. Stay optimistic.

It’s easy to wallow in despair when a crisis hits. It’s much harder—and takes a truly courageous leader—to discover the hidden opportunities for innovation and growth. When we do all of these things, we can instill confidence (rather than panic) in our customers and our team, and we can rise up much stronger than before.

When all is said and done, the pandemic doesn’t mean the end of entire companies or industries. But it does weed out businesses that are too rigid or too proud to pivot. If you’re willing to embrace change, act quickly, and stay positive in the face of change, you have a high chance at success no matter what challenges you face in your business or industry.


P.S. Have you pivoted during the pandemic? I would love to hear how you did it! Comment and let me know. I read every response, and I’d love to hear from you.

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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