Author: Michael McQueen
As events have unfolded this year, the word ‘pivot’ has emerged as a description of the moves necessary in business, society and individual lives to adapt to uncertain times. It is an appropriate word choice to describe these movements, especially as it depicts a motion that adapts its direction, while remaining rooted in one spot. It is clear that in times of crisis, the fundamental need for businesses is the ability to pivot.
While it may certainly seem like a crisis and a pivot of this scale are unique to this year, businesses have been adapting and moving with uncertain times since their beginning.
Working with the commercial leasing giant CBRE recently, I was fascinated to discover the little-known history of this widely known brand. The “CB” component dates back to a real estate company Coldwell and Banker that rose out of the ashes of post-earthquake San Francisco in 1906. This company then acquired Richard Ellis International Limited, the “RE” part of the name, which traces its roots to 1773 when an undertaker named Richard Ellis in London pivoted his operations into real estate sales. Pivoting is in the blood of this company, which used the crises of its time to innovate, create and forge a new way into its future.
More recently, the watchmaking industry in Switzerland adapted to changing times and a potential crisis for their future in the advent of the smartwatch.
When smartwatches first started becoming mainstream in 2014, Thiebaud, the head of Swiss watch giant Tissot, stated defiantly at a watch fair in Basel, ‘We’re not interested in launching a gadget watch. We like to focus on our core business instead of meandering.’ The heads of rival watchmakers Patek Philippe and La Montre Hermes also went on record to suggest that smartwatches did not represent a threat for their businesses.
Tellingly, these statements were made at the very time Credit Suisse released a forecast estimating the wearable electronics market would reach $US50 billion by 2017.