July 27, 2015
You’re Going The Wrong Way
This was my first experience with Lyft, the other popular ride-sharing service. I had previously used Uber on multiple occasions but all the recent publicity and press I figured it might be time to explore the alternatives and see what else was available in the ride-sharing space. Lyft is of course the second most popular service with others coming along behind them.
I was familiar with Lyft but to be perfectly honest I hadn’t checked them out earlier partly because I was a bit turned off by the “fun” nature. I’m looking for a nice, professional ride, not a party car with a giant pink mustache. But here I was in Portland preparing to return after a long week of conferences and I decided to give the mustache a chance. I’d be leaving in the dark anyways. And so in the early morning hours with some hesitation I requested a Lyft and waited.
My driver, Max arrived promptly and to my relief the mustache effect was minimal. He helped me get all in and as I had heard I rode in the front seat instead of the back…no big deal. We settled in and he immediately guessed my destination to be the airport (I suppose there’s not much else people use Lyft for at 4 in the morning). I explained it was my first time using Lyft and was interested to see how things went. I had barely gotten these words out of my mouth when I was treated to one of the most heart-stopping experiences you want to face at a time of day when your eyes are barely open.
Max had pulled out and started driving along unaware he was driving the wrong way on a one-way street. No big deal, it’s deserted roads at this time of day right? Mostly. You see the one vehicle that seems to always be on the roads is the impressively-built, industrial-sized, public transit, also known as the city bus, equipped with a wonderful set of powerful headlights. It was at this moment, caught in the brilliant glare of two spotlights I turned to Max and rather casually observed;
“I think you’re going the wrong way.”
I can’t help but think in that moment how much I felt like John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes,Trains, and Automobiles. If you’ve seen the movie you know what part I’m referring to. Let’s just say I was relieved to see that Max did not have horns and an evil laugh when I turned to him with my now fully-open eyes and racing heart.
Thankfully Max was able to pull a quick and well-maneuvered three-point turn (I guess the Department of Motor Vehicles must have planned for this type of thing when they made three-point turns a mandatory part of the driving test.) We escaped without incident and were able to get back headed the right direction and had a relatively uneventful remainder of our trip to the airport. (Not sure there’s much more that could have been done to make it more exciting at this point).
So now comes the question. Would I use Lyft again? After a hair-raising experiencing like this do I feel comfortable doing it again? I’d have to answer absolutely I would. Things happen. Mistakes can be made by anywhere and at any time. This could have very easily been a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. But if I book a Lyft in the future and find myself in a similar situation, or any other less-than-optimal experience…well that might just close the book on the service for me.
You see, as humans we’re tolerant of an occasional faux-paux (well, most people are). We recognize that things happen and we’re willing to overlook them, forgive them quickly; particularly in a new service or new product. We are more tolerant. However, repeated negative experiences build on each other. We don’t forget things quickly (I can assure you I won’t forget this Lyft ride anytime soon).
How quick are you in turning?
This is the aspect that can absolutely destroy an otherwise great startup. You can have glitches in your beta, you can have a bug here or there that hopefully can be fixed quickly. A minor three-point turn and you’ve redirected the user back onto a successful journey in your app. But fail multiple times and your users will leave. They will establish a perceived pattern, they will assume a poor product, a bad implementation, and leave you with a failed startup. Yes, first impressions are important and critical to get right, but they are not the only thing to consider. The overall user-experience, the attention to details, the responsiveness handling issues or bugs when they arise are just as important.
Are you listening?
In my startup life these are the types of lessons I’m learning. Listen to your users, they may be telling you that you’re going the wrong way. You may need to pivot or simply do a quick, three-point turn, but always be listening. I hope if you’re in a similar situation you can draw some inspiration, encouragement, or at least a laugh from my journey and use it to make your startup-life more successful.
August 14, 2014
Knowing When To Pivot
The idea of pivoting in a business is one of those things not thought of when things are running smooth and business is growing. Often its not until things start “slipping” do you start to hear the rumblings of a “pivot” in the works. What is a pivot? Why should a business pivot? And when should a business pivot? Let’s see if we can answer those three questions.
What is a pivot?
The first question I want to look at is the background, definition, and meaning of a pivot in business. The first thought which comes to my mind is the analogy of a basketball player. If you’re familiar with the sport at all then you’re aware that once you’ve picked up the ball (after dribbling) you are no longer allowed to move both your feet. You’re only allowed to move one or the other. This action is called a pivot. You can pick up one foot but the other must remain firmly planted where it was originally placed.
Business pivots I like to imagine are quite similar. A pivot is when a business identifies its core business is not completely meeting its needs (for a variety of reasons which we’ll see in the answers to our next questions). What a business may choose to do then is to pivot the focus of its business slightly to something different. Similar to the basketball pivot I like to imagine the business keeps one “foot” firmly planted in the culture, goal, and objectives upon which it was founded. Now that we have a basic understanding of a pivot let’s look at the reasons why a business might pivot.
Why should a business pivot?
Business pivots are difficult decisions to make. Sometimes they may be gut-wrenchingly hard. But they can be a necessary part of a business’s evolutionary process. Sometimes it’s the only way for a business to survive. Knowing what a pivot it we need to understand the reasons why you’d want to perform a pivot. Here’s a couple to get us started.
Pivot because market shift
Sometimes in the course of business the market will shift away from what you’ve been doing. This is a common reason especially in the technology industry. The current trends change so quickly it becomes very difficult to keep up with trends and if you’re not vigilant your market can shift away from you seemingly overnight.
Pivot to refocus on core purpose
Another useful time for performing a pivot is when you realize you are not accomplishing your goals or your core purpose. Stop and think about why you got into business. Are those reasons what still motivate you to get up and go each day? Does your team believe what you do is accomplishing your goal? If not then it might be time to consider a pivot.
When should a business pivot?
You may notice that the last sentence of the previous paragraph brought up our next point. It might be time to consider a pivot. If we know what a pivot is and why a business might consider a pivot the last question we’re going to ask today is when should that be done? This is certainly the most difficult question. Along with a pivot comes change.
Many people (customers, community, team members) are averse to the idea of change. Change causes us to stretch ourselves and possibly lose the comfort zone we’ve settled in to. (Ironically this might be the very reason why a pivot is necessary).
Pivot on time
Too many times a pivot comes too late. Business has already lost the market (see the reasons above) or the community, team members have lost the core value and begun leaving the company. A pivot is difficult to time because some of us don’t like change and secondly it’s just plain hard to do. But constantly analyzing and studying the market and the reasons why you do what you do will help you spot early on when a pivot is necessary.
Pivot when necessary
No, that’s not an easy-out type of answer. The truth is you should perform a pivot when it’s necessary. Timing is key and the only way to know when a pivot becomes necessary is if you stay alert and attentive. Don’t get lazy. Don’t be over-active either. The best thing you can do is to be consistent and be constantly pro-actively growing. When you notice shifts that would require a change-pivot. Don’t pivot just because you are bored with the current business environment.
The easy answer is to pivot when your business has faded, but I would suggest this is too late. Be proactive but don’t be over-active. Don’t change for the sake of change but at the same time don’t avoid change because it’s hard. Pivoting when done right can take a business to the next level and keep you successful for many years to come. Know when to pivot.