What’s Your Role? A Founder’s Guide to the 5 Stages of a Startup

Today, there are 27 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. alone. Hoping to become one of them? Then you’ll want to know how to prepare for the different stages of a startup. 

Many people can easily envision some parts of the business life cycle. For the most part, when we decide to become entrepreneurs we’re focused on the fun, successful aspects. However, some of the stages of a startup are more difficult to navigate. 

Before becoming an entrepreneur, it’s important to know exactly what you’re in for, both good and bad. Keep reading to learn how to plan ahead for the life cycle stages of a business!

First Stage: Concept

All businesses begin as ideas. In the first stage, your business is just a concept.

However, if you want to attain success, you’ll need to do more than just dream while you’re in this stage. The first stage also involves the steps that will take that business from concept to reality.

First, you might start by researching the industry, and getting advice from other professionals who you know. You should also consider where your business funding will come from before you move forward.

Perhaps most importantly, you need to start thinking about your target audience here. All viable businesses offer a desirable solution to an existing problem. What’s the problem for your target customer, and what solution do you offer?

You should research competitors to figure out how you’ll set yourself apart. You can also interview members of your target audience to get a better idea of how you’ll meet their needs effectively.

Second Stage: Launch

Once you’ve refined your concept into a viable business model, you can actually get your business off the ground in the second stage. This includes everything you need to prepare for an execute a business launch.

The things that happen in this stage can make or break your business later on. When you launch, you should start with a minimum viable productor MVP. This way, you’re not investing more funds into a huge launch, only to find that lots of changes need to be made.

Put your MVP in the hands of your first few customers, and pay close attention to the response you get. Make changes as needed, and start to build buzz about your brand so that you’ll be ready to grow. However, don’t try to scale up until you’re stable where you’re at.

Third Stage: Refined Business Model

This stage often blends into the second stage, and both may need to happen at the same time. However, it’s important that you build in the step for refining your business model, instead of just focusing on the launch itself.

Your business model needs to be predictable, and eventually, scalable. However, just after you launch, it won’t be there yet. You’ll probably be working insane hours at this point, and trying “do it all.” This isn’t a sustainable business model for the long term.

At this point, it’s time to invest some of your funds into hiring the people that will take some of the burden off your shoulders.

You might need financial experts as your taxes become too complex to handle alone, for example. You’ll need a team who can track your marketing efforts to change them as needed. You’ll need to add new people and refine the responsibilities of the people you already have. 

In this stage, you should create standard operation procedures, specific job descriptions, and key performance indicators. This is the stage of defining everything. 

Of course, you may also need to refine your ideas of your products, customer base, and more. This is the time to turn your business into a smooth operation that will keep running without so much crazy effort. 

Fourth Stage: Re-Orientation and Growth

This is the stage where you stop, take a breath, and decide where to take the business next.

At this stage, you might be thinking about business growth. You’ve got a business model that’s running well, and it’s time to look at how to make a bigger splash. However, you also need to proceed with caution so you don’t lose what you’ve built so far.

You might start to target new customers, add new products, or bring even more people on your team. Or, you might start thinking about an acquisition, if selling the company at a profit was your end goal. 

You won’t want to move onto this stage until your existing business feels like a routine, not like a crazy start-up. You’ll want to balance the desire to expand with the need to remain stable. While it’s important not to do too much too fast, you also shouldn’t settle into the existing routine for too long.

Fifth Stage: Maturity

Somewhere along the way, your business will become mature, no longer a fresh new startup. This happens when your profits remain stable as you grow steadily. 

For some people, maturity is where they’ll aim to stay. But other entrepreneurs will plan to exit their successful business at this stage. It’s hard to run a company indefinitely, and sometimes passing the business on to the next person is best for both the company and you. However, this step is optional.

If you don’t exit, you should aim for a manageable rate of expansion. Few companies can stay competitive without regular growth, so you’ll need to keep looking for the next great opportunities. 

Need Help Navigating the Stages of a Startup?

Many entrepreneurs start more than one successful business over the course of their careers. That’s because if you can get these stages of a startup right the first time, you can easily apply them again and again.

However, getting them right the first time is the hard part. This is where you’ll benefit from other experienced professionals who’ve done it all before. Looking for a great startup mentor? Learn more about me here!