The Five Stages of Business Growth
Posted by Lacey Wilcox | March 3, 2022
A few years ago, my family changed our lives forever (in the best way possible) when we welcomed the newest furry member of our family, our dog Prince. And while there's no going back to that terrible time before he was in our lives, raising a puppy into a full-grown adult wasn’t all puppucinos and dog cuddles.
Instead, we had to make it through the different stages of doghood: puppy, annoying puppy who bites and pees on everything, young dog who chews and pees on everything a little less, and finally cuddly cute companion who goes with me everywhere.
While growing a business is not the same as raising a dog, it does move in stages. And it’s really important to understand those stages because it provides insight into what you need to be doing and expecting in that stage.
The 5 Stages of Business Growth
Building a business requires dedication and care. It’s not for the faint of heart. But part of being able to stay the course and endure the ups and downs is having a good understanding of each stage of business growth. The more clearly you can see where your business is and where you want it to be, the better able you are to accomplish your goals. If you consume information about starting and growing a business, you will see each of these stages referred to with different names, but the stages themselves are similar.
The first stage of business growth and development is just like a puppy: it’s small and fragile and tends to be very messy. This is the stage where your business has begun: you’ve started acquiring customers, you’re making money, but you don’t have anything of substance yet. Don’t be deceived by small things, though. One of the things that is so great about the launch stage is that you have the opportunity to lay a framework for a very healthy business. The things you do now will have a profound impact on your business as it grows.
Next up is survival. This is the stage where you’re just trying to make it. If you’ve read any books about well-known companies, they all have moments where they didn’t think they were going to survive. Owners have maxed out credit cards, sold property and possessions, and given up all they have because they believed their business had what it takes to be incredibly successful.
While we hope your experience is not that extreme, the point here is that there will be moments where you have to grit your teeth and fight to sustain what you have. Knowing that this is a matter of if, not when, will give you the perseverance to make it through this stage.
While my dog didn’t have much of a size transition from pup to adult, most dogs often have noticeable changes in their size, appearance, and behavior as they grow. Your furry friend begins to leave the puppy stage and starts to enter a phase where he or she is less likely to mark up your whole house or chew your favorite slippers to shreds.
It’s like this in business. When you come out of the “white-knuckling just to survive” stage, you hit a sweet spot where you begin to experience growth. While it’s great to enjoy the fruits of your labor, it’s also really important to stress that this is the time to build on the foundation you laid as you launched your company. Focus on being profitable and on building processes and procedures that are scalable as your business grows and changes.
And finally, the stage that makes all prior ones seem worth it: success. This is like when your Doodle hits two years and finally starts to calm down. Or when your toddler starts to figure out words to communicate her needs besides “No!” and “NOOOOOOOOO!”
For businesses, this is when you have a well-running machine: processes are working smoothly, you’re retaining the majority of your clients, your team is well cared for, and you are profitable. Rather than patting yourself on the back for a job well done, this is the time to hone in on your company and have a hyper-focus on things like culture, customer care, and expenses.
Just like a pup or a child, your business will grow, and it will also mature. Where your business goes in this stage is very much up to you: some companies decide to sell, some cut back on all their products and services, some decide to become public and grow even more.
The main point to make here is that the only way to get to this place where you decide what to do with your company is if you continue to make strong, wise decisions at each stage of your business’s growth and development.
Why It’s Important to Know the Stages of Small Business Growth
You might be wondering why it’s even worth your time to know these stages of small business growth. If you want to have a successful company, it’s kind of a requirement that you go through all of them, right? So why does it matter if you know exactly what each one is?
Every time you experience something new, whether you have a baby, adopt a puppy, learn to play an instrument, or start a business, you will experience phases or stages. Knowing these phases will provide valuable insight into what you’re experiencing and how to handle it.
Regardless of which stage of business growth you are in, you need to have the right perspective. This means that you can’t give up and quit when things get tough in the launch or survival phases. And you have to keep your head when you begin to experience success so that you don’t make poor decisions.
Getting a puppy is a lot like having a newborn, which is a lot like trying to get your business into existence and actually survive. It felt like it would be impossible to have a day where we didn’t have a puppy marking his territory all over our house. But, we were able to endure the phase because we knew it was exactly that: a phase. And the same is true in business growth: not every part of growing a business is the same as the launch phase, which isn’t the same as trying to survive, which isn’t the same as managing success. It requires endurance to make it through every stage of owning and growing your own business.
Understanding the phase you are in is incredibly important for growing at the right pace. When you have a new puppy, that is not the time to start running three miles a day with your doggo. It’s too much, too soon. But it is a great time to start teaching your little guy what a leash feels like and to practice small aspects of walking together.
Good Decision Making
You will make different decisions for your business at different times in your company’s growth. What is a good, wise decision at the launch stage might not be the best decision once your business has taken off. Understanding the stage your business is in will help you make decisions that allow you to sustain healthy growth for the long haul.
The Right Marketing to Grow Your Business at the Right Time
Part of growing your business is being able to market yourself to the right customer at the right time in their buyer’s journey and your company’s trajectory. This kind of marketing requires a strong website, exceptional content, an intentional strategy, execution of digital ads, and more.
While you can hire additional people to take charge of these roles and responsibilities, it can become expensive very quickly. Another option is to trust a digital agency that can bring experience and expertise to marketing your business and help you go from launch to success.
Interested in what an agency can do? We would love to earn your trust. Let’s meet!