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What Stage Is Your Business In?

Nigel Hartley

What Stage Is Your Business In?


What have your feelings got to do with the success of your business?

As it turns out, a lot. All businesses pass through a natural business lifecycle. The journey is not based on revenue, profit or staff numbers but rather the feelings the business experiences. This is particularly relevant right now with all the uncertainty we are facing daily.

All businesses, from sole proprietors to corporate boards, are run by people, and people are impacted by their feelings. Especially in small businesses, the feelings of the owner have an impact on daily communication and decision-making.

This journey is not time scaled. Each business will travel along its lifecycle at a different rate. Some may complete the whole lifecycle in a few years. Others may take decades.

Shirlaws has a framework that addresses this, and we call it “Stages.”  Stages is a model about feelings, and feelings can be difficult to measure. You might not recognize all the stages, either because you haven’t experienced them yet, or in your business you passed through that stage very quickly and it didn’t register.

Stages also applies to the journey employees take within your business- which means that at any point in time, a business will have different people at different points along the journey.

As you follow along this process I suggest you track your own personal business journey. Remember how you felt and reacted at each stage and if you are only part way through your journey apply this to your business.

Now let’s break it down into the five stages – Start-Up, Growth, Advanced Growth, Plateau and Decline

So, when you started a business, how did you feel on the first day or week of your new venture? Excited? Yes of course or you wouldn’t have got the energy to get started.

After the initial surge of excitement how else did you feel? Perhaps a little scared or apprehensive too? These emotions are our primary motivators and impart us with great energy. This causes a period of frantic energy, where we are responsible for the numerous, and many urgent, elements that need to be done all at once to start a new business venture. If one compares it to an athlete coming out of college and going to the Pros, whatever the sport you hear that there is an adjustment to the speed of the game – it is the same in business.

When entrepreneurs in that stage approach me, I tell them not to worry but come back in six months if they still feel that way. More normally what happens is that the anxiety eases and you become more confident. You have moved into the First Brick Wall.

Brick Walls are transitions stages in businesses. The First Brick Wall is the transition stage between Start Up and Growth, a transition that requires investment. It may be as simple as moving out of the garage or buying a copier, but you invest in the business and you feel you have a purpose and direction. Not doing this or investing poorly will result in plateau and then decline, which is why so many businesses fail to get off the ground.

Then you move into the Growth phase and you start to see a return on your investments. This modest success creates a feeling described by most businesses as good times. The feeling is relaxed: you aren’t overstretched; you are making a reasonable living and enjoying the experience. Businesses stay in Good Times by continuing to reinvest in business growth, creating momentum and further growth in the business.

While that ongoing investment can be managed and forward-planned, eventually, energetically you will want to reap the rewards of your hard work. The business will have achieved its initial vision; you, as the business owner, will have achieved the outcome when you first started this business.

You go through payback. Exactly what it looks like can differ depending on your initial vision. Many business owners experience a commercial payback – new cars, a bigger house. Sometimes it can be a cultural reward-industry recognition, a long family holiday. Whatever it looks like, the feeling during payback is euphoria.

If you have reached this stage, congratulations.

However, this does not last and how you handle the challenge will dictate whether your business moves through the second brick wall into advanced growth, plateaus or declines. We will discuss this in more detail in an upcoming article. In the meantime, think about your team. Are you facing any communication challenges or difficult decision-making scenarios? If so understanding where you and the members of your team are on “Stages” will greatly affect the outcome.


Nigel Hartley is a Business Advisor with Shirlaws Group where we help businesses “Grow, Fund, Exit.www.shirlawsgroup.com. You can contact Nigel on 707 573 7154 or by email at nigel.hartley@shirlawsgroup.com.

Nigel Hartley