Growing Pains: Tackling The Stages Of Business Growth
If you’re a first-time business owner, you’re likely feeling some growing pains.
But unlike actual growing pains, these can be hard to predict — and may last longer than expected. How do you move your business forward while making room for all of that first time growth?
You can begin by understanding the stages of business growth.
Although every business is different, each is likely to have similar stages of growth. It’s important to understand each step of this growth in order to plan wisely and maximize business success.
Even if you’re just thinking about starting a business, take a close look at these key stages of business growth to help you prepare for the journey.
The Stages of Business Growth
1. The Beginning or Startup Stage
Every major project or dream has to start somewhere. When it comes to business, this stage can often feel like the hardest one.
While all stages of business growth are important, this is definitely one of the most crucial, emotional, and time-consuming stages out there. When your business is just stepping into existence, you need help putting your initial vision out into the world.
What are the main issues of this particular stage?
Definitely the constant goal of getting customers to notice and stick around. Plus, you’re also tasked with making sure you deliver on what you’ve promised.
What To Ask
In this stage, it’s crucial to ask yourself check-in questions periodically about these two goals. Think closely about your product or service. Is it enough to obtain customers alone? What aspects could you change or adapt to attract even more customers?
Every stage of business growth is flexible, but the Startup Stage presents the best opportunities for honing your product and experimenting with your customer base.
It’s the time to ask if your business really is viable. Do you really have what it takes to get off the ground?
A lot of businesses struggle to make it past this first stage, but you can change the game by remembering to monitor your sales, no matter what they may be. See how much data you can collect about your product and customer response. Pay close attention to these numbers in order to have a well-rounded assessment of your product or service’s market fit.
In this stage, it’s easy to forget that customers really are the answer. Starting with their satisfaction is a key way to identifying a sharp trajectory to the next stage.
2. The Survival Stage
Yes, it really is called the Survival Stage. How is this different from the beginning stage, which seems to be all about surviving?
When it comes to stages of business growth, a lot of the steps merge together and have commonalities. But the key distinction between the Survival and Startup Stages is that in this second stage you have demand.
This is likely great news! Your product has a solid market fit, and you have a growing reputation as being a business that can offer high-quality goods or services. You have things that are desired within the current market or community.
Getting to this point may take a short amount of time, depending on the product, or several years. Regardless, now is the time to ride the demand and match it with supply.
It is also the time to pay attention to the structure of your business and the specifics surrounding revenue.
In the Survival Stage, your business moves from something potentially viable to a competitive organization. You’ll want to continue keeping track of sales and all metrics. However, you also need to add the components of a live business that keep it afloat.
This may mean shifting the sole workload from you (company owner) to a handful of employees.
This is where job descriptions and positions emerge. It is also where customer service takes off. This will happen as you expand your business structure and implement tools needed to meet the high demand of your product.
In terms of revenue, the Survival Stage is also about checking in with the bank account.
This is when businesses consider whether or not they can do more than break even, examine profit margins, and project financial growth to the best of their ability.
Keep in mind that even at this stage a business may feel fragile. The whole point of startups is not to just get into the scene, but to stay there.
3. The Growth Stage
A lot of small business owners dream of this stage, when the growing pains of starting and surviving are in the past.
The Growth Stage begins when you’ve ensured solid operations and the deliverability of your business and product. You’ve established a wide and satisfied customer base. Your organization has internal support and financial tools needed to help everything flow smoothly.
In this stage, the focus is likely to shift from determining and maintaining market fit to making the most with what’s currently happening.
Some businesses stay in this stage without expansion. They are happy with the growing demand and their ability to meet this demand profitably. Others, however, take this stage as an opportunity to optimize the situation.
Some aspects to focus on include organization efficiency, improving sales and marketing, and maximizing other growth areas. The key is to take hold of that data you’ve been tracking since day one. Then, pick out the areas that show the most potential for growth.
Now is a great time to track and optimize customer retention.
You can also identify ways to increase average revenue per month, or expand your customer base even further. This will vary depending on your business. However, the Growth Stage means specific and tailored growth that will sharpen your business.
4. The Take-off Stage
Just because you’re at the take-off stage doesn’t mean that it’s all finished.
When it comes to stages of business growth, it’s all about maximizing each step of the journey. You can’t just sit back once you meet your goals.
In this stage, your business has proven its ability to fit the market with its product or service. It can also satisfy customers consistently, and keep itself going efficiently and profitably.
Some people may argue that this is the stage where launching really happens.
Now that you have the foundation, you can think about taking your business further.
This may mean incorporating a new product, expanding to branches in other locations, or giving your team prime management so that you can focus on how to move your business up.
A lot of businesses stay in this stage without taking off. This is perfectly fine, and is often a result of initial business goals and projected growth.
At this stage, it’s most important to keep your performance in the past three stages in mind. You need to assess what’s important to you: staying where you are or moving on up.
The basic demands of this stage will involve making sure you have a solid management team to keep the daily operations smooth. Now is the time to really take a close look at leadership roles in your company. Also, look at the values your business promotes internally.
Dive deep into your financial data. Identifying areas for further growth will involve a solid grasp of current metrics. You’ll also get an understanding of how and why you may want to invest your resources to best achieve your new goals.
Most importantly, in this stage, businesses will experience the culmination of all the hard work put into the previous three stages.
How to Make the Most of These Stages of Business Growth
Now that you have a good grasp on the four general stages of business growth, it’s time to think about how to make the most of each step.
Assessing where you’re at presently can be a great way to get to where you want to be.
Ask yourself what is going to be most important to you during this particular stage of growth. Set new goals based on this assessment. Think about what stage will come next.
Make sure that you have the ability to collect data (metrics) in order to make concrete and tangible assessments and goals. This is truly the best way to stay on top of your business growth and accelerate your jump to the next level.