Career & Education | Life | Article

How to Pivot When You’re Stuck

by Marcus Lee | 8 Jan 2021 | 6 mins read

Sometimes through no fault of your own, you find yourself stuck in your career. Maybe it’s an industry-wide paradigm shift like the change from letters to emails, or maybe you’ve reached the end of your career path in your company and you find no more room for growth. How do you pivot when you’re stuck?

What Do We Do?

Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey’s living legend once said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” With that in mind, we spoke to three different individuals who managed to pivot when COVID-19 almost derailed their livelihoods.

Create a New Revenue Stream From Scratch? No Problem

Kelly Low the co-founder and Head of Business Development of Breakout and Hauntu spoke to us about moving their core business, a 100% on-ground escape room game, into the next chapter.

How do you create an escape room experience when your customers can’t get into your escape room in the first place?

“Due to government regulations during the lockdown period, our retail outlets could not open for business, our revenues dropped as much as 90%,” she says. Having been open since 2014 and with a presence in 4 countries, Kelly Low and her partners had to think of ways to stay afloat – and fast!

The team implemented daily brainstorming sessions to find new revenue streams. Their guiding star in each meeting?

To provide immersive and unique experiences for their customers.

This led them to conduct online escape room experiences. The online sessions were conducted live through CCTV with an actor playing the role of a captive that you had to save.

With the help of an actor, Breakout sells the escape room experience on your phone

They also managed to double down on the idea and provide team building activities online for up to 1,000 people concurrently. This pivot into online has allowed them to reach a larger audience and they’ve seen growth of 20% – 30% month on month since the launch.

This approach stayed true to their company vision of providing immersive and unique experiences to the customers but the stage had changed from on-ground to online.

Key Takeaway: Know your own values and guiding principles and stick to them. There’s likely more than one way to bring your unique voice to the world.

A Setback is Sometimes a Set-Up for Success

Albert Wong is the founder of Occam, a social media agency that provides social media management, videography, animation, and web development. Like many, his business was severely affected by the pandemic with many of his clients dropping his services.

This turn wasn’t a setback for Albert and his team, it was an accelerant.

Using their intimate knowledge of the food industry, their web development background, and marketing know-how, the team created a food delivery app, The Other Kitchen.

“Before COVID, we had (already) been manually taking reservations and pre-orders for our (F&B) clients via social media,” says Albert.

“What I can say is that it was sort of an accidental transition,” he continues. The transition from agency to app developer was coming, but the setback allowed them to accelerate the move.

With the app, they’ve managed to help many local eateries in the Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya area transition online not only for deliveries, but for take-away and dine-in as well.

They also leveraged on their story-telling prowess and produced a documentary called Local Legends that highlighted local hawkers in Malaysia. The video was successful with over 120,000 views and they’re now producing part 2 of the documentary focusing on halal eateries.

The team’s focus has shifted mostly to the app and they’ve taken on many new clients since the debut of the app.

Key Takeaway: Sometimes life throws a wrench into your perfect world, but it’s okay. Throw the wrench back at life. Demand to see life’s manager. Make life regret the day it threw the wrench into your works. Use your setback as an accelerant to pursue what you’ve always wanted.

Swim to Your Own Blue Ocean

Zebedee Hing was a Real Estate Negotiator in Kuala Lumpur and he focused on selling residential properties with the usual methods of booking appointments and showing properties on ground. The market was flourishing pre-COVID and residential sales were booming for Zeb.

When the pandemic hit, all purchasing activities stopped (except for toilet paper) and the residential property market was severely affected in the first half of 2020 (when compared to vehicle sales).

As Zebedee previously specialised in the luxury property market that catered to expats, his business dried up overnight as travel restrictions were placed and renters vanished.

Later on, a trend emerged that shifted his business model.

Many businesses were expanding exponentially or downsizing due to COVID and this meant that there was a need for commercial properties. Zebedee found his own blue ocean.

Very briefly, a blue ocean is an uncontested market space that is characterized by differentiated offerings at a low cost that will provide new demand.

Though he’s definitely found a new demand and the advancement of Zoom and virtual property viewings help lower his costs, it has its own challenges.

“Industrial properties are a very niche market because the people we deal with are the big bosses,” says Zebedee. “If we meet them, we can’t waste their time and we need to know our stuff.”

He has shifted most of his attention to industrial properties now and dedicates about 20% of his time to residential property transactions. “It’s more rewarding, but at the same time, more challenging,” he concludes.

Key Takeaway: New opportunities lie just beyond our comfort zone, but comfort rarely leads to breakthrough and in our careers and our life, we rarely settle for only comfort.

“The past is never wasted. Pivoting is about making sure you don’t waste your future.” This is an excerpt from Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.

Nobody likes change, but change is a necessary part of life. If you need another quote, here’s one by Bruce Lee, “Be formless, shapeless, like water… water can flow or it can crash, be water my friend.”

We previously told the story of Avinash who was forced to pivot and become a freelancer full time. If you have a similar story you’d like to share, email us at [email protected]! We’d love to tell your tale.