Survival tips and techniques for your small business
Your business, just like your life - has a lifetime cycle. In fact, your business has 5 cycles that it will go through.
Sadly the majority of small businesses and SMEs won't make it through all 5 cycles. The first 3 cycles are the hardest. But don't panic just yet, I'm about to give you some tips and considerations for each cycle so you can identify where you're at and understand what's to come so you can prepare yourself for ultimate business survival. To make it easy to understand I will refer to the cycles just like our own lifecycle and everything will all start to click into place.
So let’s get started… Cycle One The Development We have the initial stage where you are just a thought in you your parent's minds. They’re sat there one night chatting together and have this wild and crazy idea ‘Maybe we should have a baby’, they discuss the pros and cons and then get excited but a little scared of how life can be and then you know how the rest happens (If you don’t that’s not for me to tell).
It’s the stage where you’ve had this ‘crazy’ idea of starting a business and you’re mind running a million miles an hour of the possibilities that could be. This stage lasts as long as you allow it to. I recommend you don’t delay and you take action to create that business plan. Let’s make your dream a reality. Need to Know about Development Cycle Whilst this phase is so exciting and I don’t want to burst your fun bubble - I need to be that ‘boring’ friend that says have you considered everything, is this idea viable and have you done your research? This is where creating a Business Plan comes into play. Your business plan does exactly what it says - plan out your business. Statistics show new business owners who start with a business plan are 50% more likely to succeed than those that don't. Say’s it all, doesn't it 🤷♀️
You will also need a business plan if you are choosing to apply for funding, loans, or investments. Business plans should be realistic but unique - don’t let all the details distract from your idea. Your business can evolve and develop - if you ask anyone further along in the lifecycle they will likely say it's nothing like when they created a business plan.
The business plan just helps you get yourself off the ground and into your next life cycle.
Cycle Two The Infant So the idea has formed into reality it's been cooking for several months and you're ready to welcome yourself to the world. You’re alive but you have no idea what you want or need and you are constantly crying for attention. You’re trying to find your rhythm and how you fit into this world. You’re in need of constant support from your parents to guide you. It’s a challenging stage as you start to develop, learn the basics and form your personality
Also known as your Startup Cycle. You’re figuring out the business world and finding your USP whilst clinging to your business plan for regular guidance,
Need to Know About The Startup Cycle This stage is all about taking messy action and just giving things a go. You will be testing the viability of your idea and seeing if it has the legs to take off. In this stage there really isn’t a right or wrong but a series of make or break moments. You need to allow yourself to be flexible, allow yourself to fail and pivot and allow yourself to try. Most importantly you need to be able to forgive yourself when things don’t work out and have the resilience and willpower to keep trying.
In this stage, you may still have support from a full-time job or have approved funding or loans to help the business through this stage where it isn’t yet making enough revenue to stand on its own two feet.
Your vision can get blurred in this stage - If you’re feeling stuck it’s time to regain some clarity. Something like a Power Hour with an expert can really help you get back on track.
This stage typically lasts around 3 years, hang in there it's about to get good!
Cycle Three The Teenager Storming in with an attitude and a mission is your next life cycle - your teenage years. You know, the years where you think you know everything but you know nothing. One minute you're making strides the next you’ve lost all sense of who you are. Hormones are raging, you’re striving for independence and you can’t wait to be 30, flirty and thriving…
Known as your Initial Growth period. You’ve got huge potential but it’s a careful balancing act to get things right. Too soon and you risk losing it all by not being ready but leave it too late and you’ve been left behind whilst your competitors are driving forward. Need to Know About The Initial Growth Cycle You need to go back to your Business Plan - yep it never leaves you! The best advice I can give in this stage is to redo your business plan again, this will help you understand if and when the business is ready for growth and how you are going to achieve it. So much has changed in the past few years that your business will look completely different. It’s also a great exercise to reflect and see just how far you’ve come. Once you’ve done that it’s time to get down to business - you need to have a strong strategy with clearly defined goals and action steps. In this phase, you want to be considering expanding your team if you haven't already so you can focus on the vision for growth.
Once you’ve mastered this initial growth, you've redefined who you are and where you’re going you're ready to become a fully-fledged Adult.
The Adult Also known as - I feel ready but am I really ready, oh god mortgages, careers, children, travel why did no one prepare us for this shit, what was I worried about before, take me back! You’ve got to figure this out so you knuckle down and start creating that life for yourself. Known as the Expansion Cycle. The stage where you need to take everything you have learned and accomplished so far review and simplify it to amplify. Need to Know about The Expansion Cycle At this point, your business should be well established, and have some strong routes and it's time to simplify. In this cycle, you want to revisit every area of your business and ask yourself how you can simplify the process. Maybe it's Tech&Systems, Hiring&Firing or Increasing&Reductions. Whatever it looks like refine, simplify and improve. This will brace your ready for the real expansion. In this stage, it’s time to consider entering new markets and increasing your customer base (hence why you needed to check in on your processes). This stage will look different for every business and you need to make sure it feels right for you and your vision in life. Often people get so lost in what could be they forget what they really wanted from the business. Know your business potential but also its limits, and yours. It’s also totally okay if you choose not to expand any further than what you already have. You still need to simplify - to buy you back more time and streamline the business. You then want to consider how you keep this momentum steady and keep your business relevant. At this stage, you want to be reaching out to specialists in the area you want to expand. Choose this person carefully as they will likely make or break your business at this stage. Once you’ve mastered this it’s time to enjoy the ride.
Cycle Five The Senior You’ve now reached the final stage of your life cycle - your senior years. You’re ready to reap the rewards of all your hard work, share your wisdom and enjoy your remaining years living life and hopefully passing on a legacy. You’re not done yet though - you don’t want to be thrown into a home and forgotten about - you still have a thirst for life, just a more relaxed one! Known as the Maturity Cycle. This is also considered the last of your business cycles.
Need to Know about The Maturity Cycle This phase is a bit of a weird one. You have to consider yourself and your business as one but also as two individuals. Your business is a living breathing thing you’ve nurtured from the moment it was just a thought right up to today. You weathered every storm, you’ve laughed and cried with it and like you - it still has life left in it; but are you the one to continue to lead it?
Sure you can coast for a little while, but if the business doesn’t evolve and adapt it will die as your young fresh competitors will eat you for breakfast. Let's be honest, when we’ve been in something so long are we really still the young visionary to take the business through its next level of expansion - probably not. This doesn’t mean giving up on your business but perhaps you take a different seat in your business and move your expertise and experience into a new venture or start to invest and advise other businesses. It’s time to start thinking about your exit plan and the position you want to hold in the business moving forward. Think about what's right for you and the business; make strategic decisions and your legacy can live on for a lifetime.
There we have the 5 Cycles of Business Life.