Pivot to Nowhere? Was it Fun, or Did it Deliver Results?

small business product and target market

Product and market alu=ignment are crucial to small business success.



I’ve shaken hands with too many founders who have sore hands. Why? They’re busy patting themselves on the back for making a pivot, without seeing if it had any impact at all on the business.

“That pivot made business much better,” said one founder recently, but whether it delivered quantifiable, material business improvement is another matter entirely.  

Entrepreneurs are always in a hurry, and believe that “in a hurry” is a requirement of their job descriptions. 

So they press onward, usually in a bigass hurry.  “We pivoted,” they say, and they just keep moving, without:

  • (a).looking for proof that the pivot had dramatic, curative impact, or
  • (b) seeing the pivot bring repeatable, scalable profitable change. 

Making the pivot is not important—its sustainable impact is what matters.

Product/market fit can’t just be “declared,” no matter how many pivots a team has made. Startups can’t simply “move on” or move forward to work on other elements of their business.  Why not?? 

Without product/market fit, founders simply don’t have a business.  Too few founders “get it,” and don’t understand the centricity and importance of “fit,” and the need to go back, retrench, rethink and—quite often—rebuild much if not all of the business model to make it work.

When it works:

I had the truly sensual pleasure of attaining sustainable, scalable(and highly lucrative) product/market fit in startup #7, where after about three years we finally got it right:

  • we knew our target customer segment precisely (and also knew who it wasn’t)
  • when we found someone in our segment, he or she bought—big
  • and we developed a method for finding these customers and getting the to self-identify, making the sales process far easier and more cost-efficient than it was the month before.

Where was the evidence? 

It was on the telephone—where our “perfect” customers were calling almost nonstop, and practically throwing money at us, begging us to come and pitch them or send them a proposal without any romance or pre-sell. It got so bad that we actually started charging to make out-of-town sales calls (agreeing to credit the per diem and travel costs if the client signed up for a six figure consulting project). 

It was magical…it’s the real definition of product/market fit—customers grabbing your value proposition (or product) out of your hands.

Next page- When it doesn’t


About the author

Bob Dorf

Bob Dorf is among the world’s leading Lean Startup and Customer Development experts, who trains and coaches startups throughout the world, with a particular focus on Latin America.  Bob co-authored the Startup Owner’s Manual, a global bestseller, with startup legend Steve Blank. Now in 18 languages, the Manual details every step in transforming an idea into a repeatable, scalable, profitable business. Bob focuses particularly on training programs for the startup educators, coaches, and investors, and has done so repeatedly in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and many more. Hes also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Columbia Business School. Earlier, Bob founded seven startups--“two homeruns, two base hits, and three tax losses.” His 30+ angel investments delivered 7 IPO’s and six disasters. Learn more at www.bobdorf.nyc or contact bob via bobdorf@gmail.com