The Power of the Pivot – Featuring MIT Sloan Industry Advisor, Mike Volpe MBA ’03

Challenges present powerful opportunities – both in business and in life. Over the last six months, we have seen some amazing pivots from Sloanies identifying opportunities in the changing market; not only in growing areas like health tech and retail tech, but in new areas of business.

An article from the Globe recently highlighted the pivot of two MIT-affiliated entrepreneurs in the travel industry. CTO Paul English, previously a part-time instructor at MIT Sloan, and CEO Mike Volpe MBA ’03, one of our MIT Sloan Industry Advisors, are entrepreneurs who are refocusing their work to deliver a new product that helps companies streamline expense management.

Virus prompts travel firm to pivot
Paul English’s venture takes a major detour, but it could pay off in the long run

“What do you do when your company’s only market is on the brink of evaporating?

If you’re the Boston travel firm, you adapt as quickly as you can.

On Wednesday, Lola executives Paul English and Mike Volpe will announce a new business line, dubbed Lola Spend, that will offer chief financial officers and other bean counters a way to monitor and control nearly every form of corporate spending. Previously, Lola was entirely focused on helping employers manage corporate travel purchases and expenses.”
Read the full Globe article here.

What can we learn from their story?

  • Leverage your strengths:
    Some of the most successful pivots come from applying your industry expertise, knowledge, talents, and contacts in a new way. “The most effective pivots,” English said, “are ones that keep you close to your original core strengths. In this case, Lola is dealing with essentially the same contact people in its primary target market — namely, finance officers at companies with 50 to 500 employees.”
  • Invest time in your pivot – now:
    English believes you can never pivot too quickly. “With all the pivots I’ve done in my career, there’s always questions about, are we moving fast enough, [or] are we moving too fast? You need to put more resources on it than you think,’’ English said.  “Change is hard.’’Mike Volpe highlights the silver lining and a key inspiration for entrepreneurs in challenging times: “We wanted to . . . use this as an opportunity rather than just trying to hide,’’ Volpe said. “The pandemic pushed us to do this sooner and faster.’’
  • The bottom line on identifying opportunity:
    “Listen to your customers,’’ Volpe said. “They can point you in the direction of new problems you can solve.’’

Need support with your pivot?
The MIT Sloan CDO offers career advising and coaching for students and alumni. Visit your community on Your CDO to learn how to sign up for an appointment.

Another valuable resource: MIT Sloan Industry Advisors
Mike Volpe is one of our MIT Sloan Industry Advisors, and he’s one of 40 alumni advisors across 17+ industries who are available to meet with you to help you to navigate the next step of your career journey. Click here to learn more about Mike’s background and to schedule a time to meet. Explore the MIT Sloan Industry Advisors page in Your CDO to connect with additional alumni experts in your market of interest.

By MIT Sloan CDO