The Lifecycle of growth

This month Darren Shirlaw asks: Have you hit a brick wall?

Have you hit a brick wall? This month Darren Shirlaw reveals the key phases of business growth and what you should be thinking to get them through. 

All businesses go through clear growth stages, with the energy,or feelings, of key players dictating what stage the company is at and when it moves to the next one. The stages model, illustrated below, applies to all companies, whatever size or sector. The stages are marked in green and the description, in red, identifies your feelings at each phase.

Hitting the brick wall 

Remember how you felt on day one? Excited? Nervous? Your energy levels were high, you were working long hours – the start-up stage was frantic, but you loved it. That first phase is tough – winning clients, building a reputation, establishing a cashflow. It is the First Brick Wall. Then the business begins to fly, and you get to the second stage, growth, when turnover is growing and you feel good about everything. Perhaps you move house, buy a new car or have a holiday – you deserve it, after all.

But you still seem to be working seven days a week, taking work home, going in at weekends – and the business is not growing at the same rate. There are more day-to-day problems to solve. You are doing everything you did before – and more. At this point, your feelings can best be described as frustration, stress and even disillusionment. You are at the Second Brick Wall. You can get through it and take the business forward, or the business will plateau, or it will decline.

Investing in skills

Further investment is crucial, and now it needs to be in skills. The business has changed and, unless you have a planned strategy for growth, you need to assess your role, and the roles of others in the business – how well are you delegating responsibility? You need to reassess the company’s position in the marketplace and customer expectations, and review sales methods. Does the organisation have the right skills? What are your plans for the future?

If you invest in the right strategies at this stage, you move into advanced growth and start to feel contented. You now have a good life/work balance. In forthcoming columns I will take you through the skills that need to be developed in more detail and outline the behaviour required by the company and its senior management team to move the business forward and recapture the excitement of the early days.

About the Author
Darren Shirlaw founded Shirlaws in Australia in 1999. Since then he has spearheaded its development across three continents. It is now one of the fastest growing international business coaching organisations, working predominantly with mid-tier clients (20 to 1,000 employees). Darren also has nine years of valuable experience in the funds management industry.

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