If you're starting a business, there's a good chance an assumption you've made will turn out to be wrong. You can hope that day never comes but, trust me, it will. Startups, after all, are full of risky bets and guesses (that's what makes them startups).
But even if you know it's coming - even if you're looking for your own weak assumptions - it's tough to absorb the blow of being wrong. Sometimes it's even harder to know what to do next.
We're here to help.
First, congratulate yourself. As we've discussed, entrepreneurs don't look for evidence that refutes their ideas often enough. If you've discovered a flaw in your plans - say, your customer target was off - that's actually great news. It means you've saved yourself a lot of time and money.
Now you have three options:
Punt - It's never fun to admit your idea won’t work, but the end of one entrepreneurial journey can be the start of another. Consider whether the circumstances are right to keep going. Do you have the cash? Are the rest of your assumptions still solid? Does your team have the energy to keep going? When you're at a crossroads, be honest with yourself. Giving way to the next thing isn't giving up.
Pivot - This term is used too often in business circles to describe a change of course. However, a pivot is actually a deliberate and dramatic adjustment to a business model. For example, shifting focus to businesses rather than individuals qualifies as a pivot. Selling online when you're already selling in brick-and-mortar retail is just an adjustment, not a pivot. The distinction matters because a pivot means you should reassess all of your key assumptions. Adjustments mean you're still mostly on track.
Persevere - Finally, you can (and should) keep going. You might try a new way to test your assumptions or talk with more customers. You might try new ways to market or slight adjustments to your product. But this path means you're willing to keep investing in your idea, at least until you assess your next critical assumption.
Whenever you learn something important about your businesses, you should honestly ask yourself whether it's time to punt, pivot, or persevere. It's a hard question, but ask it. Keep these three paths in mind and you’ll keep moving forward.
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