Exactly as for us human beings, there is a business lifecycle. If you think about the range of businesses you know, you will probably be able to identify a handful by each stage – new born (start up), adolescent/teens, young adults, mature grown-ups and then those that have seemingly been around forever – the elders.
Sadly, as in life, there will be those that never reach full maturity, those that go too soon and those that seem to reach early maturity and then plateau. Whilst a business does not physically age its thinking can become slower or dare I say, set in its ways. Businesses can and regularly do suffer from a midlife crisis, or even experience illness, something that stops the business functioning at full potential.
For those of you with children or those can still remember how it felt growing up, you will appreciate that at each stage of the cycle you think and act very differently and businesses are no different. Working with a range of business, I have become used to seeing the traits at each stage of life:
New Born/Start-up – It’s all new and exciting, you’re learning all day everyday. You’ve got so much to do but you’re not always quite sure what to do first. These businesses need help, support and nurturing but may not be able to ask for it or know where it is best directed.
Adolescence/Teens – You’re educated, you have grown up and you’ve overcome the statistics that dog many start-ups – you have a spring in your step, you’re confident. But with this comes opinions and the risk of complacency – you know it all! You can make some bad decisions in these years or you can find a strong role model/mentor to help guide you.
Young adults – You’ve been learning for years and finally it all makes sense. You can now put that knowledge to good use and whilst you have been growing until now, this is where the real growth takes place. You now understand what works and what doesn’t and you probably have the experience of failure or getting things wrong, which is hugely valuable and means you have lost the teenage swagger, ensuring your decision making becomes more balanced. You know when and where to ask for support, and do!
Maturity – The established business. The product, the brand, the service, the people have all become defined. You’ve finally grown into the body and mind you have had for many years. The years seem to follow a natural pattern. You’re continuing to grow but the growth comes from strategic planning and is tangible. You will have a good support network built around you – mentors, outsourced support, partners, friends and challengers.
The Elders – You’ve made it. You’re wise enough to know you are not bullet proof and cannot simply sit back and expect it to happen, but you know how to use the levers and buttons that make it happen and know what to do and when. You accept that your clients, your staff and your partners will come and go but a strong core have been around for a very long time.
Knowing what stage of the cycle your business is at will help you get into the correct mindset for the challenges that you will face and also help you to prepare for what will come next. Remember though, like people, no two businesses are identical and so you need to understand your business fully and take guidance from others rather than seek to mimic what you perceive to be success.