By mid-2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted small businesses across many sectors. Whether lockdowns and restrictions had affected them financially, or the constantly changing environment had left them emotionally exhausted, some small business owners needed additional support to move forward and pivot how they operated.
“Before COVID came around, we always had plenty of work,” director of shop-fitting contractors Masonex Building, Julia Nesbitt, explained. “We never looked for jobs, we never advertised or had to promote or market our business. Then COVID hit and it dramatically changed everything.”
In August 2020, the SBDC launched the PIVOT program to respond to this need. Funded by the WA Recovery Plan, PIVOT focused on helping small business owners most impacted by the pandemic to develop the entrepreneurial mindset necessary to rebuild their business.
Standing for Persist (keep on going); Invent (discover new ways of doing things); Viewpoint (maintain your optimism); Opportunity (they are everywhere and ready to be taken); and Timing (the importance of planning and reviewing), the six month program was designed to help business owners discover new ways of operating and meeting the demands and opportunities presented by new markets.
Blow Your Own Mind (BYOM), the SBDC’s delivery partner for the PIVOT program, mentored participants to adapt their operations and adjust to new operating conditions. In the process, the small businesses reassessed their existing models and investigated ways to innovate and build resilience for long-term success.
The free program was delivered entirely online, and included a series of recorded webinars, interactive workshops, coaching sessions, exercises and information sheets, focusing on aspects required to pivot.
Moving the entrepreneurial mindset
As a central part of the PIVOT Program, BYOM used the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile (EMP), a tool developed by Florida’s Eckerd College, to assist entrepreneurs to understand their mindset, identify strengths and target areas for further development.
The EMP measures a series of personality scales such as independence, risk acceptance, action orientation, passion and need to achieve; as well as skills such as future focus, idea generation, optimism, persistence, and execution.
All PIVOT participants completed an EMP at the start of the program to provide a quantitative baseline, and a secondary profile at the end of the program to determine its impact.
Participant Hugh Nguyen, owner of Viaje Coffee, said of this approach, “The most valuable thing with the program was the focus on mindset. What it demonstrated to us was that if you change what's inside, your outside is going to change.”
Expressions of interest for the PIVOT program opened on the SBDC website in late July 2020. Of nearly 500 businesses selected from a diverse range of industries, a third were located in regional WA.
Comparisons of the data sets from the beginning and end of the PIVOT program demonstrated growth across entrepreneurial mindset profile criteria, most significantly in self-confidence, execution, risk acceptance and optimism.
Mike Dale, CEO of Dial-a-Doctor, noted that participating in the program allowed his business to continue. “Without the SBDC…we might have closed the doors, but I am forever grateful for this opportunity that SBDC has given us.”
The change in mindset and focus also assisted some of the participants to grow exponentially. Carrie-Anne Forsyth of Wangara-based Esteem Dance said “We've had enormous growth. From February this year to May, we've had an increase of 28 per cent. That is new clients walking through the door and staying.”
The PIVOT program concluded in late March 2021, with 450 businesses completing the program. By the end of the financial year, graduated businesses had generated 66 full time positions, made up of newly created jobs and increased hours worked in the business.
Keen to develop yourself as a business owner, take advantage of opportunities and learn how to overcome disruption? You may be interested in our interpersonal skills workshops.
If you are interested in entrepreneurial mindset, you can also read about making a personal development plan and why business owners need to embrace lifelong learning.