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How We Pivoted Our Business Model During the Pandemic

posted on Aug 03 2020

by Taylor Ann Spencer, Program Manager

“Pivot! Pivot!”

In a famous scene from the hit TV show Friends, Ross, Chandler, and Rachel attempt to muscle a sofa up multiple flights of stairs. Inevitably, they get stuck on the second flight with Ross screaming “Pivot! Pivot!”

We all laugh—possibly because we’ve also tried to shoulder a couch up multiple flights before—but probably because we know how it feels to be in a situation—and not necessarily a literal one!—where we’re stuck and need to pivot, but don’t know how.

kid in funny hat on stage performing

Life often throws us curveballs and we need to adjust. Maybe your current strategy isn’t working. Maybe the world around you has shifted and your approach is no longer viable. In times like these, how do we, as individuals, as families, as companies, enable ourselves to make these changes and move forward with strength and positivity?

As a company that previously existed to provide in-person performances and programming, the current pandemic has required us to do some extreme pivoting in these last months. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve learned a lot in the process!

Here are our best practices for successful, positive pivoting:

Commit to the New Direction

graphic saying mainstages: LIVE!

It’s difficult to move forward if you’re constantly wishing for what used to be. To pivot successfully, you need to leave the past behind and move forward with 100% of your energy.

When all of our in-person programming and performances were canceled, we were of course disappointed like so many others. But instead of remaining in that space we decided, “Okay, then! What’s the best way to bring the mainstages flair to a virtual platform?”

After tossing around ideas as a team, the next week we piloted mainstages: LIVE!, our signature virtual program for kids. In the months since we’ve continually been creating new offerings to see what our audience wants and needs right now - from virtual birthday parties to trivia and family fun nights.

Don’t let regret for what’s past prevent you from moving into the future. Embrace the new opportunities and push forward with new momentum!
Our first virtual offering!

Ground Yourself in Values

photo of a computer screen on zoom with a green puppet and kids on video chat

Big changes can cause us to feel unsettled and ungrounded. But it’s important to remember that, although you may be making big changes, you’re not abandoning what you stand for. Your character and your values remain consistent.

At mainstages, our values have grown and evolved with us and our company’s needs during the pandemic. For example, we debuted 4 new values- improvisation, character, imagination, and community that detail how the new virtual landscape can guide children in new and valuable ways.

Similarly, in light of the conversation around Black Lives Matter, we more clearly laid out our commitment as a company to do better. Whether we are performing and teaching virtually or in person, our values keep our company grounded.

Hold on to your values and use them to help you maintain integrity as you move forward in your new direction.

Prepare to Improvise

performer wearing a bow tie and oversize glasses

As you strike out in a new direction, it’s difficult to predict exactly what’s ahead and therefore nearly impossible to be completely prepared. Rather than spinning your wheels trying to plan for every possible scenario, prepare to improvise when required. Go in with a plan (and a back-up plan . . . and a back-up plan to the back-up plan), but know that you still might have to make last-minute adjustments.

When we switched our production programs from in-person to virtual, we didn’t fully understand everything that producing those programs would entail—but we had confidence that we could figure it out along the way.

Don’t let fear of the unknown be the reason not to explore! Know that you’ll hit problems you didn’t anticipate, and prepare to improvise solutions to them as they come!

Listen to Feedback

kid laughing and engaging with a performer on screen

As you move forward, listen to those around you and be open to making adjustments in response to their feedback. After all, you’re probably trying some things out for the first time, and you’re likely going to need to tweak them. Listening to feedback can help you determine when and how to make those tweaks.

During the pandemic, mainstages has renewed our focus on direct engagement with families, as well as continuing to help our organizations with quality virtual programming. Now more than ever we are able to receive direct feedback from individual participants and respond. This has helped us hone our customer service even more, and adjustments that we’ve made based on feedback have helped us tweak our programs to make them even more entertaining and engaging.

Don’t shut out feedback from the people around you. Take their comments, weigh them carefully, and use them constructively to make improvements along the way.

Pivoting isn’t easy. It goes against our natural instincts, which cling to the familiar because it’s comfortable. But sometimes it’s necessary, and we don’t want to end up like Chandler, stuck on the staircase screaming forever!

When life forces you to pivot, take a deep breath and an extra-strong grip on your values, and move forward with courage and optimism. Yes, it might be unpredictable at times, but there’s also boundless opportunity in the unknown. You never know where this next move will take you! We couldn’t have predicted where it’s taken us!

Do You Want Guidance on the New Virtual Landscape?

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Taylor Ann Spencer

posted on Aug 03 2020

by Taylor Ann Spencer

Taylor Ann is an NYC-based theater artist and children's theater director. After graduating from Hope College with a BFA in theater and creative writing, she toured with Missoula Children's Theatre for a year before moving to New York City. Taylor Ann was the Supervisor for mainstages Theater Camp Long Island in its' inaugural summer in 2018.