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Every business goes through four phases of a life cycle: startup, growth, maturity and renewal/rebirth or decline. Understanding what phase you are in can make a huge difference in the strategic planning and operations of your business. I’ve met many business owners who believe they are growing because sales are increasing at 2% each year when they’re actually declining because they are losing small customers and only slightly growing big ones. These owners aren’t investing in the necessary systems and people to begin a renewal phase. Alternatively, many businesses in the growth phase aren’t allocating the proper resources to fuel the continued growth and miss valuable market share.

How do you identify which phase your business has entered, and what can you do about it? Here are the telltale signs of each phase and how to ensure success at every step.

Startup

During the startup phase, you spend your time meeting people, coming up with new ways to sell your products or services and consistently implementing new ideas. At this point, you won’t have many processes and you should be tweaking your business model to get a sense of the market and how to turn a profit. Your employees are wearing many hats. Few job descriptions and titles should exist because you’re still creating a corporate structure.

Although it’s an exciting time, it’s where most businesses fail. The cash demands often mean you can only underpay yourself and key employees for so long&nbsp;because you’ll only retain people for a short period before they will feel like they need to move out to move up in their careers. Use this time to figure out a business model that allows for sustainable cash flow, consistent growth and the ability to hire other people to run it. A business that can’t succeed without you working 100 hours per week as the sole “chief, cook and bottle washer” won’t grow.

Growth

In the growth phase, your clients should be able to explain your business model to other prospects. Keep your pricing level with modest increases for new clients. Existing client relationships should be maturing past the three- to four-year mark. Turnover should be decreasing and you should no longer be worried about making payroll and keeping employees.

The growth phase is where your business solidifies its stance in the marketplace. Turn your focus inward as you build teams and hire higher-level people to run operations. Spend your time on activities that help the company grow and identify what barriers could inhibit your growth. Take the time to strengthen your relationships with clients. Invest in your employees and push them to take more ownership of both internal processes and client relationships.

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Every business goes through four phases of a life cycle: startup, growth, maturity and renewal/rebirth or decline. Understanding what phase you are in can make a huge difference in the strategic planning and operations of your business. I’ve met many business owners who believe they are growing because sales are increasing at 2% each year when they’re actually declining because they are losing small customers and only slightly growing big ones. These owners aren’t investing in the necessary systems and people to begin a renewal phase. Alternatively, many businesses in the growth phase aren’t allocating the proper resources to fuel the continued growth and miss valuable market share.

How do you identify which phase your business has entered, and what can you do about it? Here are the telltale signs of each phase and how to ensure success at every step.

Startup

During the startup phase, you spend your time meeting people, coming up with new ways to sell your products or services and consistently implementing new ideas. At this point, you won’t have many processes and you should be tweaking your business model to get a sense of the market and how to turn a profit. Your employees are wearing many hats. Few job descriptions and titles should exist because you’re still creating a corporate structure.

Although it’s an exciting time, it’s where most businesses fail. The cash demands often mean you can only underpay yourself and key employees for so long because you’ll only retain people for a short period before they will feel like they need to move out to move up in their careers. Use this time to figure out a business model that allows for sustainable cash flow, consistent growth and the ability to hire other people to run it. A business that can’t succeed without you working 100 hours per week as the sole “chief, cook and bottle washer” won’t grow.

Growth

In the growth phase, your clients should be able to explain your business model to other prospects. Keep your pricing level with modest increases for new clients. Existing client relationships should be maturing past the three- to four-year mark. Turnover should be decreasing and you should no longer be worried about making payroll and keeping employees.

The growth phase is where your business solidifies its stance in the marketplace. Turn your focus inward as you build teams and hire higher-level people to run operations. Spend your time on activities that help the company grow and identify what barriers could inhibit your growth. Take the time to strengthen your relationships with clients. Invest in your employees and push them to take more ownership of both internal processes and client relationships.

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