What are some examples of companies that have successfully pivoted? How about some that have failed in trying to pivot?

Ah, ok, I stand corrected. I remember the sporting good company came up in an older novel I was reading and I was taken aback since I was only familiar with their teen fashion and controversy. I did a cursory Google search just for a quick explanation

At it’s peak NOKIA was 70% of the Helsinki Stock Exchange’s market capitalisation.

More historically the East India Company which “pivoted” from being a small/fringe trading company to a colonial power in it’s own right with it’s own standing army and providing the government administration for a large proportion of the Indian subcontinent, and colonies in the Middle and Far East and accounted for half of the world’s trad in the late 1700s.

Which reminded me of Hudson’s Bay Company: transitioned from fur trading to a general mercantile business, and now is an operator of department stores.

I think Sony’s a good example. I can remember when it was primarily known as a manufacturer of electronic goods but I think they are primarily seen as an entertainment company now.

Alco was fairly successful in pivoting from steam to diesel-electric locomotives in the 1930s, at least until they lost their partnership with GE in the 1950s.

Baldwin, on the other hand, stuck with building steam locomotives for too long, and I don’t believe any of the diesels they did build were all that successful compared to their competition.

I think Yamaha might be a good example, rolling from one product and expanding as they went:
From Wikipedia:

  • 1887 Reed organs
  • 1900 Pianos
  • 1903 Furniture
  • 1914 Harmonicas
  • 1922 Audio equipment (crank phonograph first)
  • 1942 Guitars
  • 1955 Motorcycles – made by Yamaha Motor Company, which started as an affiliated company of Nippon Gakki (Yamaha Corporation’s name at the time) but is a separate company today
  • 1959 Sporting goods (starting with archery)
  • 1959 Music schools
  • 1961 Metal alloys
  • 1965 Band instruments (trumpet first)
  • 1967 Drums
  • 1971 Semiconductors
  • 2000 Yamaha Music Communications (record company)
  • 2001 Yamaha Entertainment Group (record company)

Hewlett Packard (now HP) starting out building electronic test equipment, then later added computers and printers–and then spun off the electronic test equipment into a separate company:

Would the famous 1995 Bill Gates memo directing Microsoft to focus on this new “internet” be considered a pivot?

I think so. Many pundits at the time said the lucrative desktop monopoly of Windows would preclude MSFT from becoming an “internet-savvy” success in the shiny new internet era. Said pundits were wrong; very wrong. And MSFT is fully competitive in the cloud era which is something between internet v2.0, 3.0, and 4.0.

Although Bill has also ruefully said that MSFT failing to conquer mobile was a multi-billion dollar mistake. That was a signal failure to pivot successfully; they were playing reactive catchup the whole time and got left in the dust.

I owned one of the last Windows phones and it was a thing of beauty & elegance. But with a 0.5% share of the then market, their app store looked like a Kmart the day before they closed for good: forlorn, shopworn, and mostly empty. The power of a mobile device is in the apps, not in the OS. Then they pulled the plug.

The Regina Music Box company is an example of a company that successfully pivoted. As music boxes faded out, they switched to making vacuum cleaners and continued for many years. The brand still exists, though the original company is gone.

The Conneticut Leather Company, better known by its abbreviated name “Coleco”, pivoted several times during the brand’s history - they started out as a leather supplier to shoe repairers, then branched out into hobby kits, then got into video games in the '70s, then got into toys with Cabbage Patch Kids, and wound up primarily being in the board game business before they ultimately folded.

Ha! Sounds like Tandy, that sold leather and shit, then went on to become Radio Shack, then (Thankfully) pivoted right into the ground. Fuck that place!

I opened this thread to mention Apple as an example of the first type - they pivoted from desktop computers to mobile devices rather successfully. OK, not as a big a move as some of the other examples, but a significant one nonetheless.

You mean, Apple out-nokia’d Nokia while Nokia rested on their laurels? Yes, I would agree with that. I remember driving through Catalonia at the end of the 90’s in a bus with a group of Finns: they were so proud of Nokia! And they were all feeling very rich and smug, because they all had bought shares when they were still so cheap! (At least that is what they all said). I had to think of them some years later, when Nokia tanked. A bit sad, really: those Scandinavians were friendly in their way.

It’s amusing that the model Google followed in offering the Android mobile phone OS to any manufacturer that wants to use it was exactly the same model that Microsoft followed in offering first DOS and later Windows to any manufacturer.

as a kid in the 60s I only saw Honda MCs in the US. Now they sell lots of cars.

A few years back Honda was not happy that for dirt bike racing they had to put Toyota on their bikes due to a sponsorship deal.

I do find it interesting how many times that Microsoft had some solid early technology products in a number of areas that they failed to convert into a strong market presence. I seem to recall them having fairly advanced tablets well before the iPad was launched, and the Microsoft Zune had a music subscription service that preceded Spotify and Apple music by several years. So it seemed like there were people at Microsoft who had good ideas but for some reason the company wasn’t able to capitalize on that.

IBM was the first that came to mind when I saw the title- I used to have an IBM typewriter - but it’s been mentioned, so…

Saab started out making airplanes. After World War 2, they branched out into making cars. They were never really very successful at that, and ended up selling the car business and returning to a focus on making airplanes.

Are tiny companies allowed? If so, then I would nominate mine. Started out selling all kinds of pet supplies. Failed because I was A) unknown and starting from scratch, B) competing with Petco, Petsmart, Amazon, Chewy, etc, and C) goal was too broad and without any focus whatsoever.

I narrowed way, wayyyyy down to just safety products for dogs. Bingo, profit and growing! :smiley:

I wonder if part of it that was that Microsoft didn’t seem to care about aesthetics? A good friend lent me his Zune, and the case itself was twice as thick and ten times as clunky as an iPod, and the interface was awkward and very “Windows 3.1” feeling.

Speaking of which (especially back in those days), while the Mac interface was constantly trying to be more intuitive, better-looking, and more user-friendly, DOS and Windows just screamed ‘Okay is Good Enough!’…