26 January 2024

The Journey to Small Business Success: Seven Stages to Conquer

By Ronald Smith

Wow, there are a whopping 28 million small businesses in the United States! It’s practically impossible to not have some sort of connection to this incredible group. Small businesses are like the unsung heroes of our economy – they play a crucial role, which is why everyone can’t stop talking about them.

But here’s the thing, let me spill the beans: small business means something different to each and every one of us. It’s like a shape-shifter, transforming itself to fit the unique needs and dreams of its owner.

Just like us humans, small businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re sailing solo as a solopreneur, trust me, your journey is going to be quite different from a small business with a team of ten. And guess what? Those challenges become even more diverse when you’re dealing with a company of 100 people.

What I’ve discovered in my years of working with thousands of small businesses is that there are seven stages of success for small businesses. Now, it’s important to remember that success can happen at any of these stages. The whole point of these stages is to help you figure out what stage your small business is in and what you need to focus on to achieve success. And let me tell you, having this focus really helps you make smart decisions about where you want your business to go in the future.

The 7 Stages of Small Business Success

Solopreneur

Out of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S., a whopping 22 million of them are solopreneurs. In this stage, small businesses have just one employee and earn $100,000 or less in annual sales. Time is the key factor for success at this stage. Just ask any small business owner and they’ll tell you that there never seems to be enough hours in a day.

Being responsible for every aspect of my business, from handling finances to sales and marketing and everything in between, is a whirlwind that can overwhelm even the best multitaskers like me. The combination of limited time and a never-ending to-do list can destroy any chance of success for someone running a business on their own.

The key to thriving at this stage is to establish a careful time management system. I need to dedicate most of my time to the things that actually make my business grow. It’s important not to forget to set aside time for myself, my family, and to remember why I became an entrepreneur in the first place.

I may have to stretch myself too thin, but at least I will stay sane while navigating this stage.

Collaboration

Partnerships. They’re everywhere – 1.7 million of them in America alone. These partnerships make anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000 in sales each year. The thing is, when you’re a solopreneur, you reach a point where you can’t do it all by yourself anymore. That’s when it’s time to bring in a partner. And let me tell you, strategic partnerships can really take your business to the next level.

But, here’s the thing – every coin has two sides. And partnerships are no exception. Sometimes, the wrong partner can do more harm than good. They can hold back your company’s growth and even ruin its chances of success. That’s why it’s so important to start by looking at yourself and figuring out your own weaknesses. If you struggle with finances, find a partner who knows their way around numbers and balance sheets. If you tend to focus on managing, finding someone who is a big dreamer and visionary could be just what you need. I know it’s not always easy to find the perfect match, but think about each potential partner as a whole package.

When you have partners, it gives you the opportunity to focus on what really matters at this stage – making sales. I know that selling can be uncomfortable for a lot of entrepreneurs, but it’s crucial to gain new customers if you want to succeed. You need to find a way to talk about your product that highlights the benefits it offers to your customers.

Believe me, there is no one in the world who is more passionate about your product or service than you. So don’t let your fears hold you back, and start selling!

Keeping Things Running Smoothly

Once your business is steady and stable, you’ll find yourself in the same position as 1.9 million other businesses. A steady operation typically has a team of four to ten employees and generates annual sales ranging from $300,000 to $1 million. Now that your sales are up and running, it’s time to shift your focus to marketing and service. It’s crucial to develop a plan that will make your marketing efforts systematic and profitable for your business.

Being a small business, you simply can’t afford to have marketing strategies that don’t generate revenue. You need to learn how to make smart decisions when it comes to marketing, decisions that will help your business grow its sales and retain customers.

Furthermore, customer service should be one of your top priorities at this stage. It’s important to invest in the right people and systems that will make your customers feel like VIPs. By doing so, you’ll not only see an increase in repeat sales and referrals, but you’ll also enjoy a higher customer retention rate.

A Local Success Story

Did you know that there are 900,000 businesses all over the country that have become local success stories? These businesses have been rocking it with a team of 11 to 25 employees. As you grow your own business from making $1 million in sales to hitting the big $5 million mark, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.

So, what’s the key to success at this stage? It all starts with setting your vision. I get it, it can be pretty scary to realize that you won’t always be the one making all the hiring decisions. It’s tough for an entrepreneur to let go of control and trust others with the important stuff. But here’s the thing – if you set a clear vision and make it known to your team, it’ll make a huge difference. Trust me. A clear vision will attract the right people to your business.

As my business grows, I will soon become a success story in my local community. Other small businesses around me will see my company’s growth as an inspiration.

The way I lead by example and delegate responsibilities will serve as a valuable blueprint for others to follow.

Running a Successful Business

At this point, my business has expanded to have between 26 and 100 employees, and our annual sales range from $5 million to $20 million. There are about 200,000 businesses like mine across America, and what sets companies in this stage apart is their ability to hire according to their vision and goals.

When I become a CEO, I often think that my main focus should be on the shareholders. But what if I told you that there’s something else just as important? That something is the employees and the company culture. You see, happy employees lead to happy customers, and happy customers lead to happy shareholders.

Company culture is like the glue that holds everything together. It helps us attract the right people and get rid of the wrong ones. It also guides us on the path to success. That’s why it’s crucial to include every employee in the direction of our company, no matter their rank or title. When we do that, our entire workforce will feel like they have a stake in the business.

I know that as we grow, it becomes harder to maintain our culture. Adding more layers of management can dilute and weaken it. That’s why we need to establish core values and a mission that everyone can rally behind. When we do that, our employees will feel a sense of mutual respect and they won’t be able to resist our amazing culture.

When you combine this with the processes you’ve already put in place, it will propel your company forward like a well-oiled machine.

A Successful Company

You’ve made it to a point of great success, with annual sales between $20 million and $40 million. You now have a team of 100 to 200 employees, just like 60,000 other businesses in the same stage as you. Your company has become a force to be reckoned with in your industry. Now it’s time to unleash the power of strategic planning and incorporate concrete performance measurement tactics. Without proper planning, your company can become stagnant and vulnerable.

Make sure to regularly revisit your strategic direction and assess its effectiveness. If you notice a dip in progress, it may be time to reevaluate your strategy. Keep a close eye on the pulse of your mature company.

When you combine a healthy culture with a solid strategic planning process, something remarkable happens – you become a corporate player, standing out in the business world.

Becoming a Corporate Player

As your business grows and reaches annual sales of $40 to $100 million, with a workforce of 201 to 500 employees, you face a daunting decision. It’s time to let go of some control. At this stage, there are about 30,000 companies in the nation facing similar choices. It’s tough, but necessary. The vision is still yours (mostly) and you’re still the owner (maybe), but now it’s time to carefully select a leadership team you can truly rely on.

When it comes to this stage, the key to success is developing leaders. You must find and train individuals who share your vision and are just as committed as you are to preserving your company’s culture. These leaders should have impeccable ethics, treating every team member with respect. They should also demonstrate their dedication to the business and its core values through their actions every day.

You want to feel confident that your business is in good hands.

Each of these seven stages is unique, and achieving success in each one is possible. However, it’s important to find your comfort zone and stop there. Remember, people are the driving force behind your business. Small businesses have their own specific needs that should be addressed differently than those of large corporations. As a small business owner, it’s crucial to recognize which stage of success your business is in and take appropriate action.

Success is subjective, but there are factors that can help you get there.