Anna Cox Thompson

Anna Cox Thompson is communications specialist at New Memphis.

Tipping Point: The power of pivoting

By Published: June 07, 2019 12:30 PM CT

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But more often than not, career paths come with a few forks in the road. You can choose to give up, or you can adjust course. As entrepreneur and president of Gant Systems, Nick Gant has proven that there’s power in pivoting.

A self-starter from the onset, Gant moved out and rented his own house before his senior year of high school and paid for everything by doing what he loved – working on computers. The day after he graduated high school, he went to work for IBM and never once considered an alternative.

After his time at IBM, he worked for First Tennessee for almost five years. Though he’d had great success and built strong relationships throughout his career, he wanted a new challenge. He decided to strike out on his own and create Gant Systems.

<strong>Nick Gant was named Executive of the Year in the Memphis Business Journal&rsquo;s 2019 Small Business Awards. </strong>(Submitted)

Nick Gant was named Executive of the Year in the Memphis Business Journal’s 2019 Small Business Awards. (Submitted)

Starting a company from scratch wasn’t without its share of obstacles. “[My business] was incredibly unprofitable for a very long time,” he says, laughing. “I have started and failed four businesses. The luxury I have is that I just happened to have them all called Gant Systems.

“In the beginning, if someone was willing to give me a dollar, I was going to figure out how to make them happy – whether that was staffing or software development.”

But, true to his nature, Gant adapted when things weren’t panning out. “The growth came in figuring out what we wanted to be when we grew up. We got intentional and focused about growing our core business – managed IT services. When you get focused, you can start to scale the business. You’re not diluted by trying to spin too many plates all at the same time.”

What Gant didn’t know was that his model of adaptation had a technical term – pivoting. “I was told that if I’d gone to business school I would have learned that pivoting in a business is a smart thing to do. If something isn’t working, discontinue it. It’s what puts most small businesses out of business; they don’t pivot. So, technically I didn’t start and fail; I pivoted.”

His ability to switch gears and problem-solve has led his business to 72% growth over a three-year period, ramping up in 2015. Nick also was named Executive of the Year in the Memphis Business Journal’s 2019 Small Business Awards.

With growth has come the opportunity to expand his team. He’s learned that finding the correct people requires a unique approach, so he pivoted again. 

“We used to only hire technically competent people, but they weren’t always a fit (for our company culture). I realized if I could hire the right character traits, we could teach them the technical skills they needed. We have to be customer-focused first which means investing in building good people" to interface with customers.

If there’s been a common thread linking his journey, it’s that he’s never stopped learning and adjusting to achieve the desired outcome. And he encourages other entrepreneurs to do the same. “We’re always improving – getting better, faster and stronger. I’ve learned enough to know what I don’t know, and I’m excited to continue building an engaged team that moves us forward.”

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