Growth Strategies

The 7 Lifecycle Stages Every Business Experiences

Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
15+ min read

How do you turn a startup into a thriving enterprise?

That is the question Les McKeown, serial entrepreneur, bestselling author and the CEO and founder of consulting firm Predictable Success sought to answer in his lively keynote address at the first Entrepreneur360 Conference in New York this fall.

In a speech accompanied by only a permanent market and two giant pads of paper, McKeown broke down the seven stages of development every business faces:

Related: 3 Ways to Increase Employee Vitality as You Grow

1. Early struggle: The company’s founders are searching for a sustainable and profitable market.

2. Fun: This involves mining the market the founders have found, solving problems as they arise and not being afraid to improvise.

3. White water: The company starts to make mistakes. Quality of the product or service may decrease and often there is a move to hire someone to deal with the new, more complex company processes.

4. Predictable success: The team comes together and focuses on scaling the company.

5. Treadmill: When the founders sell or move on, the CEO moves to a position like chairman emeritus.

6. The big rut: With a lack of vision, the company can struggle to stay relevant.

7. Death rattle: The end of the line.

Related: 4 Ways to Keep Your Team Creatively Inspired

McKeown developed his model for how to successfully build a company thanks to hard won experience, having started 42 businesses before he turned 35.

Besides detailing every business's lifecycle and what occurs at each stage, McKeown touched on the three types of people you'll find in a startup environment and how their relationships to one another shift as the company grows and changes.

For more on the danger of glorifying the startup mentality, the importance of knowing when to scale and why visionary founders can sometimes have the attention span of a golden retriever, check out the full keynote speech in the video above.

Related: 12 Ways to Make a Difference at Work: CEOs and Strategists Explain

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