What do fast-growth firms think about pivoting?

Elliott Haworth
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Ripped up paper
What causes a business to rip up their business plan and start again? (Source: Getty)

Most of the Leap 100 have faced personal and professional challenges in getting to where they are today, with over half changing their business model in some way since starting up.

“A clear business plan is useful, but often re-written down the line. Clear and well thought-through operating frameworks and processes are often key to starting and scaling a business successfully”, said one chief executive.

Just under a quarter of the Leap 100 has completely changed what they originally set out to do, with many citing a lack of high quality senior management at the outset. “Attracting and retaining high performing or high potential people to any business is a key factor to consider when starting”, says one founder. “Where are your people going to come from, and why would they join your business?” asks another.

Ensuring the right people are recruited from the start is a lesson many of the Leap 100 learned the hard way. One chief executive found that starting up a business alone led to a single vision lacking a diversity of ideas. “Get a complementary co-founder”, he said, “someone technical with good business logic”.

It goes without saying that you can’t hire the right people without access to adequate finance. “Spend more early on, on better quality starting blocks, including recruiting higher quality people and paying them more”, said one chief executive. Starting with “sufficient funding” to ensure his business “had the right senior management team with a spread of clearly defined skills and roles” aided the success of another.

Read more: What’s holding back The Leap 100?

Access to capital was a common theme among those surveyed, but not just for hiring top-tier talent – having more money allows you to make initial mistakes without compromising your future. “Ensure more seed funding is available at the beginning so you can learn quickly, fail cheaply and get the business model right quicker”, said one. Another added that focusing “more on the cost structure to support the core business offering” will “ensure greater and faster profitability”.

Not raising enough primary investment was a regret of one chief executive on the Leap 100, who started off “very slowly, investing as we made money” and “gingerly making progress”. If he were to do it again he would “take more money initially” to “build a fully fledged business in a timescale of weeks, not years”.

Another leader thinks the total opposite, though. “Don't spend anything until you absolutely have to. Use your own and friend’s networks”, he says. “With a good idea, enthusiasm and a smile you'll be amazed what help you'll get. Once you start paying, any favours and pro-bono stuff stops”.

Read more: The Leap 100: Does Brexit really mean business?

Just under a quarter of our 100 haven’t pivoted their business model at all, achieving exactly what they set out to do. “Accept that progress takes longer than expected and budget for that,” says one chief executive. The advice of another is to “look at defining the end game more clearly at the outset”.