The Subtle Art of Incremental Change

Pivoting in business doesn't have to equal making drastic changes. Small, yet measurable, incremental adjustments often prove to be a better option for most small business owners.
The Subtle Art of Incremental Change

Pivoting is often seen as making a complete change in a business’s goals and objectives.

It is often triggered by unexpected customer discovery or as a last-ditch effort to survive.

This approach might work for startups seeking market fit, but is less suitable for small businesses needing to evolve to stay afloat.

While radical change seems appealing, it is usually unmeasured. I prefer small businesses to opt for a more refined approach.

An incremental pivot is a way to enact gradual transition in your business in a way that doesn’t disrupt any of the current operations.

This means making small, swift changes deliberately to shift direction and build momentum.

Over weeks and months, these measurable adjustments will compound and lead to a more meaningful pivot.

This approach hinges on 3 core principals:

You Must Have Measurable KPIs to Benchmark Against

KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are high level variables you can track and sometimes control in your business.

A good example of a KPI might be daily or monthly revenues, amount of new leads, or the number of impressions your business had on potential customers.

This high-level data should mirror your business’s health and serve as the benchmark to assess the impact of each small change you make.

When a strategy begins to positively affect our KPIs, we can increase its use for more predictable and measurable success.

Extra Reading: How to Define Better KPIs - Understanding Lead vs. Lag Metrics

You Must Be Willing to Rapidly Try New Things

Rapid iteration will be the cure to stagnation.

The approach starts with an empty page and some uninterrupted time to plan out our attack.

During this brainstorming phase, we’ll outline all desired changes and initiatives. It’s crucial to understand that rapid iteration is deliberate, not reactive.

As we fine-tune our list, we’ll identify 10 to 20 actionable items feasible within a “reasonable” timeframe.

While this may vary on your sales cycles and the details of your business, I like to define “reasonable” as taking no more than a few days of work to launch.

Some good examples may be:

Committing to reaching out to 100 prospective customers on Instagram every day.

  • Carrying a new product or launching a new service at your store.

  • Finding local networking events in your vertical and committing to attending one a week.

  • Analyzing who your top 10% of customers are and offering them an exclusive sale or inviting them to a private event.

  • Committing to documenting 3 tasks a week in your business that are ripe for delegation.

  • Now we’ll begin to roll out the first few of these actions and, over the course of the weeks and months, study the KPIs.

As we introduce new actions and see them trickle up into our KPIs, we can decide to do more of them.

Remember, not everything will succeed, and it’s important to remember accepting failure as a part of innovation is essential. By comparing results to our set KPIs, we can maintain objectivity.

This mindset helps us quickly assess what working and move beyond unsuccessful attempts.

You Must Practice Patience

As an entrepreneur and creative, I’m inherently impulsive and want instant gratification. Yet, through experience, I’ve learned that building a sustainable business takes time.

I’m a big fan of the book Traction by Gino Wickman. Its main lesson is to set your goals in alignment with your KPIs, beginning with a 10-year “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”.

You then zoom in and set KPI-focused goals for the next 3 years, 1 year, 3 months, and eventually weekly targets.

This reverse approach to goal planning allows us to take daily action that aligns us with our 10 year goal.

When planning for a decade out, it’s near to impossible NOT to practice patience.

The media glamorizes entrepreneurship by highlighting stories of startups on the brink of failure that pivot to become giants like Twitter or Instagram.

It’s crucial to understand these are rare exceptions, which is why their stories have achieved mythical status.

Real world pivots are often way less sexy but when implemented judiciously, can be just as effective.

Ready to get started?

Looking for some help defining your KPIs or some creative strategies to implement in your business?


back to writing

Schedule a FREE Call

Interested in seeing how I can help you with your ?

Subscribe to My Newsletter

Sign up for free and get actionable insights surrounding entrepreneurship, programming, real-estate investing, mindset, and more delivered straight to your inbox.