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Think about your values before you start or pivot your business

This video is from a talk I gave at BootstrapMD right before our panel discussion (the first in my career). The theme of the panel was “Getting to Plan B” — what to do when your business isn’t quite working and you need to pivot.

Pivots are a Change of Direction

A pivot is a change of direction for your company. That’s all it is. I think with the word “pivot” becoming so popular in the tech media, its easy to make pivoting a huge mystifying and complicated thing. The key new idea that the word “pivot” brings is that if you want to have a successful change of direction, you want to make changes based on what you’ve learned, and tether yourself to some reference point before you make the change, so that you can still have some sort of continuous flow. Thats all it is. That is pivoting.

What are your values as an entrepreneur?

So whats that reference point you ask? What do you tether yourself to? That’s the essence of my video above. I think the most fundamental thing you need to define for yourself before you start your business, or atleast before you decide to pivot are your values as a person and as an extension the values of your organization.

When I say values, I’m not talking about “honesty”, “integrity” or any of that standard stuff. I’m talking about what is the key reason or the key thing that drives you. Why start a business at all? Why wake up in the morning and go to work? Why do you do the things that you do? — When you can succinctly answer this, you’ve probably got a pretty good list of your key values.

For example, I deeply value doing meaningful work. I define “meaningful work” as work that makes society better than it is today. And so, if you go to my company’s site, my values, and as an extension my company’s values are right there, front and center. “We believe in actuating change that leaves the world better than we found it.” We happen to be a technology company, we happen to have products, we happen to offer services, but the core reason we get up in the morning is so that we can actuate change that makes this world better.

Connecting this back to “pivoting” — as I mentioned in the video, once you know your core values, the difficult decisions around where to take your company next, or how to start your business, or which idea to pursue, or whether to make the sign up button green or blue — becomes infinitely easier. They become infinitely easier because you’ll find that a ton of the options that you face don’t align with your values and therefore they’re really non-options.

For example, if you tremendously value money — bootstrapping a company thats here to stay for the next 20 years is probably not the most congruent thing for you to do. You might be better off identifying a problem, any problem, raising a ton of money, developing a solution, and flipping it for a quick buck.

Getting to defining YOUR values

I did a ton of thinking for myself on what my values are. Its made the day to day decisions I face for my company infinitely easier to make. I urge you to stop and reflect on your values.

Categories: my thoughts, Principles.

  • takeoffvideo

    Great talk!