Companies grow in stages. The information below lists 3 stages of growth. Each stage has its advantages, challenges and opportunities. For clarity’s sake, I want to parallel the 3 stages to sports.
As you read through this article, ask yourself which stage you are in. Think about your current challenges and opportunities. Ask yourself if you want to move to the next stage of the growth cycle. If you do, ask yourself what you must do to move to that level.
Stage 1 is the startup or new company stage. In this stage, the leader is the worker. He does almost everything. He markets, strategizes, connects, etc. He may have an administrative assistant, but unless he works, there is no business. Almost everything depends on the leader.
Advantages of this stage include nimbleness. Because the leader is the company, he can turn on a dime and make adjustments to accommodate his clients. His overhead is low. If he can perform the work, the company will do well.
Challenges include limited time. There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish every task. There are always more tasks than time. Stage 1 players feel like they are married to their company. In fact, they may find themselves longing for the days when they simply worked for someone else. Life was simple then.
Opportunities include learning about their industry and growing a vibrant company. There are few times in life when the excitement is higher than the player stage. The leader is fully engaged in his company. He is the company. If he likes what he is doing, he will make a huge contribution to his industry and clients.
The coach/player stage is one in which the leader is both a worker and a manager. The company is dependent on him performing daily work. He needs to hire, oversee, and manage those who help perform the work.
In sports, playing a position and coaching the team simultaneously is very hard to do. As a player, you must focus on your position on the team. As a coach, you must provide the overall strategy for the team. Many small business owners are in the coach/player stage.
An advantage to this stage is that the leader still has his finger on the pulse of the organization. He is engaged daily in the company and knows firsthand the needs. He also works alongside his team. He knows his teams’ strengths and weaknesses.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of Stage 2 is that the leader is very stretched. He must perform his worker tasks and provide management for his team. Because he is only one person, he will run from task to task or role to role. Many leaders never move beyond this stage and wear themselves out. Being a coach/player is hard to sustain for the long haul.
Opportunities in Stage 2 include seeing firsthand what’s needed to move to Stage 3. The leader understands firsthand every key role and task that the company must do well to grow. Such firsthand knowledge enables the leader to make good decisions for the future.
Leaders who experience Stage 3 move to true “ownership” of the company. The company is no longer primarily dependent on his efforts. At this stage, the leader is not doing the work but overseeing those who do it. If the company grows large enough, he will oversee those who oversee those who do it.
Stage 3 places the leader in the visionary role. His focus changes from doing the work or managing the day to day to studying and charting new possibilities for the company.
One advantage of Stage 3 is that the leader can pace himself. He must be focused, but the day-to-day activities do not require his direct attention. He views life from a 30,000-foot view.
A challenge for Stage 3 is that the leader is tempted to coast. At this stage in the growth cycle, he has worked extremely hard. Since the company does not depend on him daily to produce or perform the necessary work, he can easily take his foot off the accelerator and move into coast mode. A leader must be careful to continue to push the company forward.
Opportunities for Stage 3 include the time, focus, and ability to work more strategically. Stage 3 leaders know their work and have learned best practices from the school of hard knocks. Their knowledge, experience, and savvy allow them to exponentially grow their company without wearing themselves out. If they have developed a strong team who has the ability to execute, the Stage 3 leader provides the guidance and direction for the company.
As you can see, each stage has its advantages, challenges, and opportunities. Leaders must recognize which stage they are in and determine what’s needed to move to the next stage.
Some leaders may not choose to grow. They like their current stage and simply want to maintain what they have. For most leaders, they want to move to the next stage of growth.
Think about your company. What stage are you currently in? What do you need to do to move to the next level?
Dave Pennington PhD