Running a start-up often feels like trying to hang on to a fast-moving train — one that shifts tracks constantly. 

In a time of constant change, pivoting the business has become a natural order of things for both small start-ups and large organisations. The ‘pivot point’ that usually takes place early on for start-ups, and at later stages for established companies, is often in response to shifts in market conditions, consumer demands, evolution of technology and the economy. However, for start-ups, there are often only 2 choices: reinvention or extinction.

Graceful reinvention

The dictionary defines reinvention as: ‘to make major changes or improvements to (something).’ A major part of an entrepreneur’s role in spearheading a successful start-up is knowing when this change is inevitable and preparing for it well in advance.

The grace with which successful start-ups and entrepreneurs reinvent themselves is dictated by how they acknowledge and accept reinvention by choice, plan and take action, and face the next survival challenge brought on by a rapidly disrupting world.

But sometimes, adaptation requires you to fundamentally alter the business model.

In my case, I started out as a social and ethical entrepreneur investing in women-led businesses and causes. After a few years, I realised that it was time to evolve the model to a more sustainable option. One that helped create jobs and encouraged women to get into business at the same time — an angel investor.

It wasn’t an easy transition — particularly as there were no women-focused angel investors when I started. Also, unlike today when many young women are raising capital, four years ago there were hardly any women founders asking for money. For me, adaption required fundamentally trying to change certain aspects of the start-up landscape.

Preparing for and tackling reinvention head-on is especially critical to the long-term success of the start-up sector in Australia, given the high rate of ‘fear of failure’ prevalent in the country.

In my experience supporting high-risk start-ups, I have always maintained that to harness a truly entrepreneurial culture, in addition to innovation, jobs, ideas and disruption, we need to give failure and reinvention equal limelight and importance. Preparing for and tackling reinvention head-on is especially critical to the long-term success of the start-up sector in Australia, given the high rate of ‘fear of failure’ prevalent in the country.

Here are a few simple considerations when reinventing yourself and your business:

  •   Knowing when to change is often the hardest part. My move into the angel investment space came when I noticed the lack of financial support for women entrepreneurs in the market. It was an outside-in view gleaned from speaking to people around me and understanding what was working and what wasn’t. Reinvention starts with entrepreneurs taking a step back and evaluating the business from a different perspective and being open to honest feedback from those around them.
  •   Bring in or engage with people who possess complementary skills and passions. Be open to challenges, and challenge them as well, so you both can grow. Encouraging growth betters you, and them. It is important to be surrounded by people who inspire you, motivate you and help you to believe in yourself.
  •   Take quick action. Reinvention is often uncomfortable and entrepreneurs tend to delay it if they can. The stress of change is compounded by procrastination. Giving something your best shot and failing is better than a ‘what if’ situation.
  •   In the start-up world, a business reinvention often goes hand in hand with personal reinvention. Entrepreneur personalities affect the future of a start-up — more than many founders want to believe. When faced with challenges and failures, it is important to understand the source of these setbacks and how deeply the entrepreneur is connected to it.

Change is inevitable. How prepared you are for it and how you pre-empt it is what distinguishes the leaders from the followers.