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Did the pandemic change your small business? For most of us, the answer is yes.

Which begs the question, how do you pivot to whatever is next? It seems difficult, right?

It turns out that changing course can be quite easy.

I want you to think about a giant cruise ship. Think about how big they are. Large cruise ships are about 1,000 feet long (longer than three football fields), and weigh more than 71,500 tons. They are massive. Now consider about how much energy and velocity that mighty ship has when headed in any one direction.

So how does a captain turn a ship to head in a new direction? It is not an insignificant question, and bingo if you think I am sailing towards an analogy.

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The ship of your business or life or career all have a lot of momentum built up in the direction they are headed.

But what if a pandemic hits and you need to rethink the direction your business is going?

The answer may be easier than you think. Let’s say that the ship captain sees a storm up ahead on the radar and decides that he or she has to make a course correction. What does he do? He turns the wheel and the wheel turns the rudder, the rudder turns the ship and off they go, right?


As it so happens, there is too much water pressure on the rudder to turn it. The way it actually works is this: The captain turns the wheel and the wheel turns a mini-rudder that is attached to the big rudder. That mini-rudder is called a trim tab.

When the captain turns the wheel, the wheel turns the trim tab, the trim tab turns the rudder, and only then does the giant ship head in a whole new direction along a new path.

It’s the little change that makes the big change happen.

Yes, pivoting a business can seem complicated and overwhelming. Organizations often fall into what is known as “analysis paralysis,” trying to figure out how to make needed changes. And then, in the face of that seemingly big obstacle, often nothing happens.

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Instant pictures are all the rage now of course, but when was the last time you took a Polaroid? Not recently of course. No one has. Polaroid went bankrupt. But the thing is, Polaroid invented the instant picture! If there was ever a company that needed to pivot, it was Polaroid; unfortunately, innovating digitally wasn’t really in the bones of that analogue company.

 (Photo: Starbucks)

Conversely, consider Starbucks. Back in the day, Starbucks only sold hot coffee. But coffee sales dip in the summer. What did Starbucks do? It applied the trim tab idea and started selling “Frappuccinos.” Small change, big result. And then they added music and food for sale. Presto, a whole new direction.

So the lesson is clear. You do not need to rethink your entire enterprise to head in a new direction. Simply apply the trim tab principle. Ask yourself: What little change can I make now that might have a big payoff later?

Whatever the case, change course on your trim tab and set sail.

Remember, it’s the little change that makes the big change happen.

Steve Strauss is an attorney, speaker and the author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed, and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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