What is a business pivot? Adding services, subtracting product lines, adding employees. Whenever your business’s direction changes, it’s a pivot. The trick is making it intentional.
JoyGenea and Michelle discuss their business pivots. Why they happened, how they happened, and when. Not to mention the anxiety that comes along with the change. Especially when it comes to pricing. No pivot is harder than the pricing pivot. But it is an essential pivot as a business grows.
How do you brand your pivots? How should they be communicated internally and externally for the best effect on your business?
Are you ready for the pivots coming in your business?
M: Hello I’m Michelle from BadCat Digital.
J: And I’m JoyGenea and I own Solutions by JoyGenea. Welcome to If These Heels Could Talk!
M: Today on our show we will be talking in detail about the business pivot. Making a change, adding services in other areas. Marketing that narrative.
J: Part of what brought on this topic is the fact that I’m doing some pivoting.
J: I know. So I’m taking a ridiculous amount of classes and having a really great time right now in getting my coaching certification.
J: I know.
M: It’s such a natural fit for you.
J: Thank you. It feels really, really good. I’m really enjoying it. It’s an online course with international flavor, so I’m meeting people from around the world.
M: Oh, that’s wonderful.
J: Yup. We communicate through What’s App so I’m having an educational experience on multiple levels. And I’m enjoying that. And I’m not leaving what I’m currently doing. I love what I currently do. This is an add-on. And so it’s interesting just starting to have conversations with people. They’re like, how does that fit with digital marketing and with websites and those types of things? So it got me thinking, as a small business I’m really aware at this point I am never going to be over three employees.
J: I like being a small business. I like being agile. It’s the way I’m going to be. I am going to be an entrepreneur. I am going to see an opportunity. I’m going to pivot. And so it’s gonna look like that.
J: And which I am recognizing a variety of people in the business world are like, “oh no you pick your thing and you drill down.” In today’s market you don’t.
M: Well and it also depends. You have to play to your strengths.
M: You know if you’re the kind of person who maybe gets a little bored and always seeking and is always learning and is always growing and is always training, like you are of course you’re going to find new things that excite you. Of course you’re going to find new things that you want to share with people. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have expertise in what you’ve previously been talking about and sharing. What it means is that what you’re selling is going to shift.
M: And all of those things just make you ultimately more valuable.
J: Exactly. But remembering that is our conversation. This is normal. This is really common and I really see it in today’s market where things do shift and change fairly quickly. That it’s going to become more and more common and so figuring out how to have that conversation and how to plan for it more strategically.
J: So one of the other major pivots – not just like I’m adding this whole arm to my business.
M: That’s a major pivot.
J: That’s a pivot. But you pivot within a category.
M: It’s kind of like when you move and David Schwimmer tells you to pivot your couch. You know the thing is that visual jokes just don’t play in this format, so look up the meme. But anyway, what we have done in growing as fast as we have, adding new service lines, we haven’t ever changed the core of what we do. We’ve added new expertise. We’ve added staff and just myself as business person, I’ve had to pivot. My expectation was for myself to be working in my basement, 30 hours a week, so I’d have time for the things I love to do. Other things I love to do besides my job – cuz I do truly still love my job. And you know consulting. It was just supposed to be me kind of working with individuals and consulting and that’s not what it turned into and I had to pivot my expectations. I had to change what I wanted.
J: When was your first pivot? I’m kinda curious. Cuz I met you after, by the time you had your first employee.
J: That’s when we met.
M: Yes, that’s when we met. So the first pivot came – what honestly happened is I started networking in this community. I was feeling that my network was still in the Minneapolis area. And I was gaining clients but they were all there and so I was still driving there 3-4 days a week.
J: Oh wow.
M: And so it ended up being more expensive. I was getting referrals from people there to people there.
J: Which is great.
M: Which is awesome.
J: But that’s an hour and half away.
M: But it’s still a challenge to grow the business that way cuz the business wasn’t big enough to sustain and I was still doing one of things that I didn’t want to do when I left my job in Minneapolis, which was drive to Minneapolis every day.
J: And be in that traffic.
M: And be in that traffic. And have to think about it and be in the car that much. And I was missing time at home not because I was working but because I was driving, which is part of the thing I was trying to avoid. So my first pivot came when I started networking in this community. I had never networked before. I had never actively sought community relationships before. I had never created – you know we should do another whole podcast on this. On this concept of creating community as an adult, because it’s really difficult. You have to be very intentional about it.
J: It’s never been easy.
M: Yeah and we don’t go to church, so there’s no church community. We don’t have children.
J: A lot of people don’t.
M: Right a lot of people don’t go to church. It’s a huge misnomer. It’s only about 30% of people in central Minnesota go to church.
J: And it’s shrinking.
M: And it’s shrinking.
J: The reality is church is a shrinking thing.
M: Yup and so we don’t have children, so we didn’t come built in with the school parent teacher community.
M: Our neighborhood isn’t really neighborhood-y.
M: Not because of any intention. Just because I think a lot of neighborhoods aren’t like that, especially when there aren’t a lot of kids in the neighborhood.
M: A lot of retired adults. A lot of people who just kind of mind their own business/sit in their garages and watch other people not minding their own business. And not talking to anybody. So it was really difficult to build community for myself and that was hard for first pivot was intentionally saying, no I need clients in St. Cloud area. I need clients in central Minnesota. I have to meet some people. What am I going to do?
J: Found it.
M: And then the next one happened right before we met was hiring an employee. That took months of planning and thinking and dwelling and…
J: That first one.
M: Anxiety .
J: It’s like your first relationship.
M: Full time, part time. How do I find somebody? I’ve never done this before. How do I do payroll? How do I do this? How do I do that?
J: Oh yeah.
M: Like I had no experience with it, no concept of what to do. No. And then this kid walks in, who by the way is still working for me because he’s awesome. Who is a terrible interviewer which I also told him in person after you know, like 6 months after I hired him. Because he’s fabulous and he’s probably one of the best. It could not have been a better choice for my first employee.
J: Yeah. He was great.
M: And here 2 years later he’s still with me and he’s still an incredibly valuable employee and somebody that I’m just really glad is in my life.
M: And he was a terrible interview. Awful.
M: But I was like, you know you got to have somebody and he’s here. So let’s try it out. Cuz I don’t know what I’m doing either. I’ve interviewed people before and I’ve hired people before but never for myself.
M: So those two big things. Those happened before we met.
J: Yeah. And since then I’ve watched you pivot by adding more employees, expanding the space, yeah, expanding the types of clients. A variety of other things we’re gonna kinda get into on that. I’ve only expanded to the sub-contracting employees.
M: But that works for you. That model works for you.
J: Well like I said that part of this…
J: Has been that I can acknowledge that I like my lane.
J: Like I like this. This works nicely. And I’m actually getting ready for another pivot in adding more of a (what do I wanna say) beyond an assistant, more of a systems person.
M: Sure, sure, sure.
M: That’s smart.
J: To help manage more of it.
M: That’s smart. The piddly stuff. It just takes up so much time.
J: Well lots of clients, like I love my clients and I love to engage with them. That takes X and I need to acquire new clients. That takes X amount of time and they, you know I want to continue learning, and adding so that all those current clients.
M: That takes X amount of time and by the end of the day.
J: So I kind of look at it and then I’m like you don’t have time this week.
M: You don’t have 3 hours digging up somebody’s Google business listing.
J: Right. And I know that there are people who have that gift.
J: And so by not reaching out…
M: And desire.
J: …and helping them plug in their talents, I deny them. So I am going to be on a hunt for that and I’m looking forward to that. So that will be an additional pivot to go with the new expansion.
M: That’s a good hunt. That’s a good person for you to have. Somebody else who is kinda organized and detailed like you are, but…
J: Oh, to the next level.
M: Maybe to another level.
J: Next level.
M: Yeah to another level and then somebody who also just is going to be happy behind the scenes, without having to –
M: Yeah. That will be an awesome one for you.
J: Thank you.
M: That’s the thing though with pivoting is it’s scary.
J: It is. And the fun, the other thing that gets in the way if your internal dialogue isn’t like this is scary and so forth, when other people register and process that you’re changing, you’re pivoting, their external dialogue is not always helpful and they can’t help but realize that.
M: It’s true.
J: Well what do you mean are you going to stop. Like current clients are like well if you’re taking coaching classes, does that mean that you’re not gonna be doing my list?
M: They’re point at thinking about themselves. Yeah.
J: Which is good but I’m like, no that’s not who I am. It’s not who I’ve ever been.
M: Yeah, dirty. Do you trust me that little?
J: Right and real quickly they’re like oh yeah, oh you’re right ok. Got it. I’m just like no no no this is only to your benefit.
J: This is just expansion. But that’s that enrolling with narrative that I was kinda engaging people in the conversation that I’m having that I’m doing these things and I think you’ve done a really good job of that because of your background and because of your company. In talking through social media and…
M: Talking through the things that were changing.
M: Projecting excitement. Projecting, you know, instead of anxiety.
J: Right and being in front of the conversation and knowing that some people just change is scary no matter what, and so they see you changing and if you’re their friend they’re like are you sure. That’s a big change. And you’re like no, no, no, this is good.
M: This is good. This is exciting. And nerve wracking and all of those things and you can have that conversation authentically but acknowledging the anxiety of it. And that enrolls people even more.
J: Cuz then they share
M: That empathy. There’s empathy there.
M: Because change is scary and I mean what does pivot mean? It means to turn. It means to change direction and you know if I’m going down one path looking in one direction and all of sudden I change. I don’t even know what’s coming.
M: Because I wasn’t looking over there.
J: Right. We were over here.
M: To belabor the metaphor even more.
J: Products and services are another area. Both of us have pivoted.
J: Kind of I wanna say almost consistently. I almost think it’s yearly.
M: Well this one of those things that we’re both in an industry that moves.
M: So we’d have to pivot regardless.
M: You know. I mean if I had a nickel for every time I read an article that says search engine optimization is dead, I would never have to work again. And every year somebody, some client, finds some blog by some guy in the middle of nowhere who says SEO is dead, you’ve got to do this instead and they email and they’re like is this true. And I’m like no. Those articles – I’ll find you one that’s dated 2008 – like that comes up all the time and really it’s as long as there are search engines there’s gonna be ways to help your website match those search engine’s goals. So there’s no SEO is dead. SEO has changed.
J: Oh absolutely.
M: Social media. Social media is a huge thing that’s pivoting right now.
M: Facebook, Instagram’s making a ton of changes. Legislation about security and privacy is coming across the board. Facebook’s facing all kinds of lawsuits about security and privacy here and overseas.
J: You know get rumbles of a variety of new changes.
M: Yup. Google’s got – and the thing is that businesses are used to the platforms that they use having some semblance of power because of their advertising dollar and that’s not the case in social media.
J: No. And that’s the shift. That’s the pivot that industry is kind of going through and we’re gonna ride that wave.
M: Well and so people just gonna have to figure out that social media is not all Facebook. That Facebook is not encompassing of what social media is. And that social media is a set of tools, not an end all be all, so it’s not the only thing that has to happen. It’s one set of tools in your toolbox.
J: Yes. So having a broad palate.
M: Absolutely. And that really all of the assets that you have on social media you don’t own in way shape or form.
M: Somebody else can take them away tomorrow with no notice.
J: Well and that’s part of why both of us have a broader spectrum…
J: …of products and services because we might have started in one area.
J: And then you recognize that if our clients don’t have more diversity…
M: Right. In their digital platforms.
J: Right. In their representation. That we have, like you know, we haven’t done our due diligence.
J: For them. That’s been part of why my products and services have expanded.
M: As your products and services expand, how have you pivoted your pricing model?
J: Considering it started on the floor?
M: Yeah, I know mine too.
J: Considering we were giving it away. Just come on down and we’re giving them away.
M: I’ m really working hard not to make a really dirty joke.
J: Reel it in.
M: Yeah, I know.
M: After we stop. Okay, hold the dirty joke. Got it.
J: You know that is where coaches made a difference for me. If I had not been in a variety of business coaching groups and hired coaches and so forth yeah my pricing would have continued to give it away. I had a belief and mindset that was what I was doing was giving back and was a gift that I have and I shouldn’t really be receiving a lot of funds. What that equated to was there was no food on my table.
M: Right. There’s no money in the drawer.
J: Right and clients that weren’t enrolled in changing what we were having a conversation about.
J: Because I enabling. I was doing it for free.
J: And so yeah, as the pricing got off the ground and moved up and was more supportive of their goals actually, then it felt really good to add products and services. Like that made sense when we all of a sudden picked that up and went ok where’s the market at.
J: And what am I providing within that and ok is this model, ya know, effective, and so forth and really that big coach that I hired – really expensive coach that I hired a couple of years ago – that was really ,she hung up the phone on me.
J: Pretty much yeah. She’s like ok I don’t normally drink in the morning but she’s like you are going to seriously cause me to drink. She’s like if this is where your pricing is at cuz she goes you can’t. This isn’t a business.
J: And it hurt. Like she hung up and I had to cry.
J: Cuz I’m like no, no, no, I’ve been doing this and I’m good. She’s like, you’re good and charging for it or you’re good broke. And working for somebody else that’s not bright. Like decide.
J: It pretty much what she sent back and that was really good. So I always try to check in and make sure I’m valuable at the market. How about you?
M: So, I actually started increasing pricing in response to a couple of things. One as I got busier and the cost of the business went up because I had to hire people. It just naturally had to happen. I had no margin left. By the time I hired people, paid rent, and you know just my overhead went up so you know because of that. And also when demand goes up – you know when demand goes up it becomes more valuable so that drove that as well. But the other thing that shifted was my mindset cuz I did have a moment that shifted my mindset as well. You know I quilt, and people all the time are asking me to make t-shirt quilts for their nephews or cousins or dogs or whatever and I don’t do it and I used to really have a hard time saying no even though I didn’t want to do it and I don’t anymore. And one of the things that happened is I read a blog post. It was a quilter who laid out the cost of making an average queen size quilt. Not a complicated pattern. Just spelled it all out. Like priced it out. Every material, the time, the backing. Everything. And she put down that she paid herself 10 dollars and hour and she has shifted it now and redone it to put down 15 dollars an hour but even at a skill set that is acquired over years, to pay yourself 15 dollars an hour is ridiculous.
M: That’s what I thought when I read it. I was like well, she’s an artist. She’s acquired this skill set over years, why would she only make 15 dollars an hour. And then I read the whole thing and makes an average queen size quilt about $1800. And when I say that to people when they ask me to make them a quilt and I walk through it and they say well I can get a blanket at Target for $50 and I’m like good.
J: Do that.
M: Do that. That sounds great. It will save us both a lot of time and heartache.
M: Because you’re talking about 80 hours of work and I started thinking about it and I was like this is absolutely no different. Why would I treat a hobby differently than I would business? No. This is a business decision. This is what my time is worth. I’m going to stick to that. I haven’t increased prices in over a year. It’s probably time I again but I’ve been hesitant. I do need to address this. I do need to fix it. I’ve been hesitant because of the market that we’re in, because of the feedback that I receive from other people about where other agencies are at in terms of their rate, and I don’t want to price myself out. Price my clients out of the market. So there’s a balance to be had there and there’s some margin at the rate that I’m at so I wanna make sure that everything else is in line first because there’s more than one way. You know when you’re not selling a product, there’s more than one way to protect your margin. The other way to protect your margin is to track time and make sure that you’re not spending too much time for what the clients agreed to pay. And so that your rate is protected rather than inaccurately applied.
J: Right. No, that’s a great point and I don’t know about you but I definitely made sure everybody is aware on my team, what we have for you know – like what that person has purchased for services.
M: And how much time that they…
J: Yup. It’s right in that customers cue…
J: …of uploaded information so whenever people log in or they’re doing things – they’re always like oh you know this customer is on this plan and I’m like yep and they’re just like ok so we only do this. Like they really kind of get that we’re-
M: And that brings you to a system’s pivot too because we use a time tracking software and we use a project management software but they don’t talk to each other.
J: Oh ok.
M: And so I recently did an update to project management software was to add a time tracking element to it so we’re probably going to make another systems pivot so that my ability to rate and track where the sinkholes are in people’s time. Cuz there are certain things that we sell that I know take more time than we are selling them for. It’s always content writing. And so it takes more time than people realize but also takes ,you know, the editing process takes more time. The communication process takes more time. Absolutely. And so I want to make sure that were not under selling not because the rate is wrong cuz I could keep the rate the same and just adjust the time on the other side.
J: But we still want great product.
M: So there’s all kinds of…
M: You know. Yeah that’s but that’s a pivot that’s coming. I can sense that coming because as we get busier and as we grow again we’re now kind of rapidly approaching the point where it’s almost appropriate to have a non-revenue producing employee. Somebody who just manages the business and these systems need to be in place so that that can happen.
J: Yeah. Or they’re part of implementing, their part of bringing that on.
J: Kind of like what I’m talking about.
M: Yeah. Absolutely. Maybe we’re looking for the same person.
J: I was gonna say.
M: Well it’s the fight to death over –
J: The other thing that kind of comes with the pivot is your own mental state. Your own –
J: Your own ability to say I can do this.
J: Like this is possible. I think about how long it took my coaching groups to get me to let go of saying I was a professional organizer.
J: When really almost all of my clients were executives and I was doing digital work for them. It was a mental pivot that I just did not want to. I was scared.
M: You know how long it took me to be comfortable saying, “I own Badcat Digital.”
J: Couple years.
J: Yeah and you have multiple employees.
M: I had multiple employees at that point. It kind of felt a little bit like I was bragging or ego or people were going to think it was different than it was or bigger than it was or smaller than it was. Like I was second guessing it all over the place.
J: We add a lot of meaning.
M: Oh my gosh. And it’s just a simple statement. It’s just a simple fact. It’s a verb. Own. I do. I own this business.
J: At the end of the day we’re responsible for it.
M: I think about it like this is so ridiculous, why am I having trouble saying this.
J: And now you’re like this is mine.
M: Right. This is mine. And I’m proud of this and I built this and I’m building this and I’m excited about it.
J: You know in some of the pivots – what we don’t have here but one of the pivots – just the fact that we both we moved.
M: Oh, so much.
J: Yeah like physically moving adds an additional pivot. So, we just recently we had been sharing office space together.
J: I had been renting from BadCat.
J: And I pivoted out and we did it. I thought we did it quite well.
M: I thought we did it quite well too. And I’ve gotten feedback from a couple of people who were really impressed with how we did it. Both publicly and privately. People have said that.
M: And that’s really great.
J: I have heard that same thing.
M: Yeah. Because we talked in advance.
J: Oh yeah.
M: We talked in advance about public perception because this is a small town.
M: To make sure that people knew that there hadn’t been some sort of explosive –
J: I was surprised how many people assumed that happened.
M: Oh my gosh.
J: Like the first response from people, they’re like oh what happened? I’m like no.
M: No, we’re both growing. We both need to add people. We can’t do it in the same space.
And she’s got people starting that need more space.
M: It just is what it is. Like this isn’t –
J: It’s time.
M: It was time.
J: Yeah, like this is just a timing thing.
M: Yeah it was time.
J: But it was interesting how other people-
M: Oh my gosh-
J: Yeah how they were.
M: “Oh no what happened!” I have to take a quick departure from pivoting and mainly I could say I am pivoting my expectations, because we have this kind of stereotype, and I do too ,about how women gossip and women are so gossipy but I will tell you almost everybody who asked me in that kind of like.
J: Oh yeah yeah.
M: Pruriant tone of voice like, “ooo what happened” were all men.
J: Oh my gosh. That’s funny.
M: Every single one of them.
J: That’s funny. I got it from all genders.
M: You got it from all sides. Oooo what happened? Like there’s a story here.
J: Right. Actually, there’s not.
M: There’s not. Or there is, but let’s enroll you in the narrative that this is about growth and excitement and everybody is getting bigger and everybody’s doing well.
J: Well and that. I remember years ago when I went to SCORE. When I went to SCORE when I was starting my business and one of the things they talked about in business partnerships was – we didn’t have per say – but when they talked about – because there were lots of people in the room that were like well this is my best buddy and we’re gonna start a business. What I know now is I’m very hesitant of partnerships, having watched a lot of those things implode.
M: Crash and burn.
J: And one of the things they said was always start with the end game in mind.
J: Always write out how.
M: You’ve got to know how it’s going to end.
J: And so we…
M: We did.
J: We did. We started a conversation. Well, we need this for a while. Like we’re both young. Like you know our businesses are young and they’re growing and together we could be more powerful.
J: And separately and then but we knew there was just going to come this space where that wasn’t gonna be the case.
M: Well it happened faster than either one of us thought. I think. It definitely happened faster than I thought.
J: Oh, me too.
M: I think it happened faster than you thought and I so I was really we both came to realization at kind of the same time.
J: We did. It was within minutes.
M: It was. We were just chatting and I was like you know I should maybe find out how to bring this up. And then you said out loud – we need to talk about me moving.
M: It was like instantaneous. And I was like good. Yeah. See it’s so awesome when you can have that open communication and that’s the thing that saves – and that’s the thing that makes it because it’s never about what is so and so thinking. Does so and so feel bad? Does so and so feel like this? Ughhhhh.
M: Neither one of us has time for that.
J: No. We don’t. Because we’re building business and being engaged in our lives and having some hobbies and living outside of this space. To me I guess I’ll wrap up with that. The most important thing I think about a pivot is standing in it, whether it’s expanding or shrinking.
M: Right. Because I’m feeling like I’m preparing for some of that. I’m preparing for some of that next year. I think there’s gonna be some business changes and there’s gonna be some economic shifts. And I have to mentally and financially prepare.
J: Yeah. But it’s having that as soon as you recognize and see it, not having denial but having the ability to just go ok here’s what’s so.
J: And standing in that and then enrolling people in that narrative. Be like here you know like this is what’s so.
M: Well and for me what makes that so possible is when you’re doing the everyday of the business, heavily prioritizing taking time away to work on the business instead of in it. You know, I did that last year through the Chamber Leadership Program. I’m doing that this year through an Executive Dialog Group. Taking 3-4 hours at least once a month to step back, shut everything off, leave, go away, dedicate time in whatever way you feel is appropriate. I would encourage a group because it forces accountability to this but find the time, dig up the time, create the time to work on the business because otherwise the day to day will get away from you. The anxiety of pivoting will make it easy for these decisions to be put off.
J: And you might not even see them. If you’re not stepping back to be like ok wait a minute.
M: Ok wait a minute. My pricing is out of line with what I’m actually delivering. Ok wait a minute I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off in the wrong market. Why am I still driving down here?
M: Ok wait a minute we have to redo this arrangement because I’ve got 2 staff members sitting next to each other who can’t sit next to each other cuz they just talk all day so how do I get one to move over here. Or I’ve got this underlying problem with these employees or I’ve got this problem over here. There’s this systematic challenge and you’ve missed it completely. You’ve missed your opportunity to proactively do something about it. So I would really – that would be kind of where I would leave it is in this conversation about pivoting, you do you need to stand in it and you do need to own it, but there’s a whole mental journey that has to happen before that and giving yourself the space and time and support to go on that journey is really, really important.
J: It is.
J: Yeah so we strongly encourage pivot but recognize that pivot comes with its own challenges.
M: And I really highly encourage to check out the Friends meme about pivot because you know – just go on youtube watch the scene with David Schwimmer. It’s hilarious. It’s become iconic. I think we’re gonna have to do something when we title this podcast. That honors a moment in our early adulthood and Friends.
J: Very nice.
M: When we learn how to pivot.
J: I like it. Well that’s all for today’s episode on If These Heels Could Talk. We hope that we have brought you some new ideas, we’ve encouraged you a little bit in a new direction, and we’ve inspired you.
M: Thanks for listening.