Growing a business is a journey, it’s a transformative journey that has various stages of growth, through which, we need to pass until we reach our own personal definition of success. Each stage requires us to do different things and with each stage we ourselves become different people. If that sounds scary, it’s because in many ways it is. Being a business owner is not for the faint hearted.

The problem with this fact, is that many business owners simply don’t acknowledge it. Which is, in part, because unless you’ve done the journey before, how would you know about these various stages and also because we are, more often than not, fed a very distorted image of what the business journey entails.

What we most often see online is a story of overnight success. Those that sell this story will speak of some struggle, for sure, because we wouldn’t believe it otherwise but then there is the big aha, the turning point, the moment when it all made sense and the right strategy appeared and from that day forth, money and clients poured in.

But it really doesn’t work like that — of course there is a turning point, a moment when things do start to fall into place but it’s far more gradual and nuanced than we are led to believe. In this blog post, I’m going to attempt to walk you through some of the stages you’ll inevitably experience on your way to success. To be clear, your success and my success are most definitely not one and the same thing so it’s important to be clear for yourself what some of the terms I use below mean for you.

This is what I call pre-business, it’s the desire to start a business, the idea behind it. I see a lot of people hanging out here without ever making it to stage 2. I myself quit a well-paid career in Program Management in 2012 with the idea of becoming a Life Coach, yet it took me 2 more years to really go into business, when in 2014 I got my first paying client. Why? Because I had no clue how to start or run a business, which left me stuck in procrastination and overwhelm. Eventually I hired a business coach to guide me and things took off from there.

Possible Pitfall: Getting stuck thinking about starting, without ever taking any concrete action. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in research at this stage and feeling pushed and pulled by all the competing advice we see online.
Suggested Focus: Avoid hanging out in this stage and get into action as soon as possible. Taking action on any strategy is better than not doing anything.

This is the stage when you move beyond thinking about your business and start taking tangible actions, you don’t yet have paying clients, but you have the makings of a business, you might have a product or service to offer and are ready to enrol your first client or accept your first paying customer.

Possible Pitfall: Taking lots of action but on the wrong things. Getting bogged down in the superficials of your business like branding and web design rather than focusing on the foundations.
Suggested Focus: Make sure that you are creating solid foundations for your business and taking action that will support your business growth in the long term.

This is where you really can call yourself a business. You’ve made a sale (or two) and now know that this thing is possible. In this stage your initial excitement of making your first sale(s) might be replaced by doubt as you struggle to replicate your initial success. You now know that it’s possible to make money and that your business idea is therefore viable, but you don’t yet have a solid system in place to bring in consistent and predictable income. Income that can sustain you over the long haul.

Possible Pitfall: You might find yourself trying out lots of strategies here. The temptation is to strategy switch until something sticks, never truly finding traction.
Suggested Focus: Focus on two key strategies that have stood the test of time: content creation and outreach to grow your audience, deepen relationships and increase your income.

This is where things start to feel easier. Your business is now covering it’s costs and your living expenses but there is little wiggle room here and if you lose a client or two, it could mean that you slip back and find yourself struggling to make ends meet once again. We tend to overwork here and, if not careful to manage our workload effectively, can end up in burn out.

Possible Pitfall: You might get complacent with your success here and take your eye off long-term growth or you might stop working on growth strategies simply because you’ve become so busy sustaining the client load you already have.
Suggested Focus: Here we want to streamline by taking a good look at your business model to remove activities and offerings that are a drain on your energy and replace them with offerings that bring in recurring income you can rely on.

This is the stage when your business does more than just cover your expenses. This is where you can really enjoy the fruits of your labour and breathe easier. It’s a time when you might finally be able to hire help, outsource, invest in your business, clear debt and/or start saving. You know how to make money, your business model is working for you and you can trust in a steady and predictable flow of income.

Possible Pitfall: You try to hold on to everything you’ve been doing thus far to grow your business. Meaning you struggle to outsource or delegate and end up working all hours to cope with your increased client demand.
Suggested Focus: Adjust your role in the business by putting in place the systems and support to allow your business to grow without burning you out completely.

And there you have it, the five stages of business as I see them. I’d love to know where you think you are or if there is anything you think is missing from this roadmap. I’ll be developing these 5 stages more in the coming months and I’d love your input so if you’d like to share or discuss with me, please leave a comment below letting me know.


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