“Entrepreneurs can change the world” – GetGrasshopper
As an entrepreneur, you will face different challenges and different needs at each phase of the business development process. Local and state agencies and organizations provide support throughout the business development cycle. It can be helpful to think of the business lifecycle as proceeding through three main phases: Idea, Start-up and Growth phases.
Entrepreneurs, of all shapes and sizes, will quickly learn that resources of all varieties are essential to the survival of the business. In taking the business from the idea phase to the growth phase, capturing an understanding the changing dynamics within the company to utilizing the locally available resources will foster entrepreneurial success.
Types of Entrepreneurs
Aspiring – a person interested and curious about entrepreneurship who hasn’t started a business.
Start-up – someone who has an idea and is actively working towards or has recently started a business.
Lifestyle – a small business owner who has started a business with no intention of growing much past providing jobs/income for that person/family.
Growth – someone who is interested in growing a company quickly. Sometimes growth entrepreneurs are referred to as Gazelles as they are distinguished by their ability to double the size of their company either by number of employees or in gross profit every two to four years.
Serial – an entrepreneur who has the passion to start one company after another. The serial entrepreneur may start a company, work towards making the company profitable, sell it, then start their next business. Others may start a business, realize they need to close it, then try again.
Civic/Social – this type of entrepreneur is someone who is passionate about civic or social causes and works towards starting and growing a non-profit or civic minded organization focused on serving a social sector.
Intrapreneur – is a person who works for a company, but uses entrepreneurial skills to develop new products, services or programs to benefit the employing company.
According to Sue Hansen in the “7 Stages of Business Growth,” a concept developed by James Fischer who founded the Origin Institute, the growth stages of a company can and often dramatically change the dynamics of the business. Ms. Hansen summarizes the seven stages according to key challenges and by number of employees.
- Stage 1: Start Up with 1-10 employees. The key challenges noted in this phase may be obvious, but include managing cash flow, obtaining capital to start and grow, unstable finances, few customers, managing of expanding sales, getting products/services to market and work/life balance.In Stage 1, “sales have been great and you begin to hire your first employees, get ready…Your company will be CEO centric until you get to Stage 2. You are the key here, you are the star! That means that 50% of your time should be spent as the technician or specialist while only 10% of your time will be spent as a manager.” To get to stage 2, the entrepreneur will need to start envisioning who the next hires will be and who will begin to manage various company functions.
- Stage 2: Ramp up, with 11-19 employees. The key challenges in Stage 2 include limited capital to grow, continued tight cash flow, hiring the right and qualified staff, leadership to staff communications, leadership letting go of former job responsibilities and expanding sales.Hansen notes in stage 2, “generating cash is important but at the same time, managing expenses and cash flow is crucial.” Businesses are hiring more staff, which requires sales to increase to maintain positive cash flow. As roles begin to shift with a growing staff, internal communications becomes increasingly critical as well to ensure everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction with the company.
- Stage 3: Delegation, with 20-34 employees. Key challenges include a weak business design, getting staff buy-in, internal communications, having and sharing company core values and managing a staff that may become resistant to changes.Beware, stage 3 brings significant changes within the company to the point where this stage sees the highest occurrence of CEO burnout. “When you add employee 20 a shift occurs. You are just a few months away from a staff revolution. You’ve felt the subtle change – your employees are a bit harder to manage, they push back more often, their attitude hits you in the face when you least expect it…When you move into Stage 3, it becomes Enterprise-centric.”
- Stage 4: Profession, with 35 – 57 employees. Stage 4’s key challenges include project management, employee turnover, projecting problems, implementing “systems” and keeping the company abreast of growth information.Ms. Hansen notes that stage 4 is about internal focus and processes. By now the CEO should have let go of the day to day control to managers so that the focus can now go towards keeping the right managers in place and providing the tools needed to assist the managers. “Successful CEOs surround themselves with knowledgeable, experienced people – they want to be challenged on decisions, knowing that the more diversity of ideas and even attitude they bring on board, the more depth they create in their organization.”
- Stage 5: Integration, with 58-95 employees. Improving sales, forecasting problems, cost of lost expertise and staff training are the key challenges in this stage.This stage ushers in a time of being proactive within the business rather than reactive or scattered. Now is the time for the CEO move from growth management to visionary as the company moves into a more competitive environment. Now is the time to focus on developing new opportunities or markets while converting initial customers into brand loyalists for the business.
- Stage 6: Strategic, with 90-100 employees. The key challenges in stage six include staff satisfaction, staff buy-in, new staff orientation and hiring or maintaining quality staff.The ground work conducted in stage 5 to envision the future of the company now demands strategic planning to bring the company into an even larger competitive environment. Annual plans are tied in to multi-year strategic plans to lead the company both in growth and in finances.
- Stage 7: Visionary, with 161+ employees. This final growth stage for the young company includes the challenges of differentiating products/services, slower processes especially in moving new products to market, marketplace changes too quickly and balancing revenues with profits.
While the CEO should be proud of such a high growth company, the growing number of employees also means less of an entrepreneurial spirit within the company. This can affect the strength of the company with new innovations and product introductions. In this stage the CEO will need visionary skills to engage and energize the company to maintain its competitive advantage.