The Pivot: Big Changes for the Greater Good
A few lessons learned and actionable advice when facing a pivot in your organization
“It’s time for a change.”
This realization can be both terrifying and exciting for anyone charged with leading a business. “Pivoting” in business is actually quite common and occurs all the time in for-profits, nonprofits, startups and well-established companies. In some cases the change is drastic, like going from a B2B (business-to-business) to a B2C (business-to-consumer) focus, just look at Groupon, Paypal and Twitter as notable examples. Sometimes the change is more subtle, like the transition in programming we recently implemented at Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado. Regardless of the scale of the pivot, it is almost always an opportunity for improvement and almost always comes with some challenges.
Any time you change course in business there is risk.
What if your key stakeholders don’t agree with the new strategy?
What if the general public or your consumer doesn’t embrace the change?
Yet, with every risk there is inherent reward. Imagine the possibilities if we followed a new vision. Imagine the return on investment if we tried a new approach. There will always be careful negotiations involved in getting everyone on board with change, but I believe the effort is always worth the reward.
At Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado, we recently completed a pivot.
Boys Hope Girls Hope’s mission is to get academically motivated children-in-need through high school and help them ultimately earn their college degrees. The scholars in the program are bright, talented and motivated, but lack the resources and support to finish high school, much less get into and graduate from college. Our program provides structure, mentoring, tutoring and guidance to these kids to help them break down barriers and reach their goals.
Boys Hope Girls Hope Colorado is a local chapter of the international nonprofit organization. The program was founded on a model of providing value-centered homes and support for children in need. Through the years, it has evolved to also include an Academy program which provides the same support for talented scholars but does so in partnership with their schools and does not require the students to live in the affiliates’ homes. Though the Boys and Girls Hope Homes certainly provided an excellent option for some scholars, especially those with unstable home and family environments, we found that our families preferred remaining intact. Not to mention, there is an exceptional cost per scholar to accommodate them in our Boys Hope and Girls Hope homes.
With both scholars and financial benefits in mind, the Board of Directors and I decided to pivot the focus of our affiliate and transition our scholars to the Academy program where they will receive the same services and support, but will reside with their own families.
For us, pivoting our program had huge stakes. Would our major donors support this move? Would our families agree to the shift in programming? Would our pivot and transition help us meet our mission to get academically motivated children-in-need through high school and help them ultimately earn their college degree?
As a nonprofit, we rely on the continued support of Coloradans and Colorado businesses who donate to our cause. Without their monetary support, we can’t provide services to our scholar. But when we presented the reasons for pivoting, namely that we could expand and help more bright and talented scholars, we found that we had overwhelming support for our decision from our donors, scholars, and their families.
As we’ve completed the process I’ve learned a few things and can share some actionable advice when facing a pivot in your organization:
- LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
The Board of Directors and I spent months closely examining the numbers and options that would come with a pivot. The numbers don’t lie. When it came down to it, we are able to serve more students and better serve our mission by making a change.
- CLEARLY COMMUNICATE
With so many stakeholders involved, it was important for us to have a strong communication plan when we initiated the change. With transparency and clear messaging, we were able to have a very smooth transition.
- GO FOR IT!
Trust your gut. If you keep waking up in the night thinking that you need to make a change, you probably need to make a change. Remember evolution and innovation are key to maintaining a healthy business or organization.
Businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit, need to continually evolve to survive and thrive. Pivoting is a necessary step in this evolutionary process. At the end of the day we have to remember that a shift in strategy can be our greatest positive impact on the organization and the people we serve.