I often get requests to do a presentation on the 7 Stages of Growth. A recent request made me realize it might be of interest to share how I respond t those requests. Below you’ll see the email I sent that outlined what my presentation would cover.

The audience this group was focused on was smaller business owners. However, you can utilize the copy and just adjust it for a larger audience. Here is the content I sent via an email.

Suggested Title: Cracking the Code to Your Company’s Growth

Suggested Audience:  Business owners who are looking for ideas on how to get the traction they need to grow. This is designed to help business owners who are looking for ideas on how to get beyond where they are today, who truly want to grow – not necessarily by adding more people – but want to improve profitability, revenue, add that next employee, stop spinning their wheels. They want to learn what it will take to go from a one-person firm to a many-person firm; they want to know how to think about growth; how to stop working IN their business and work ON their business. Growing a successful business requires a business owner who has a Vision, who sees their future and simply needs a formula for growth that allows them to:

  • Predict how growth will impact them,
  • Help them focus on the right things at the right time,
  • And help them adapt their leadership skills to the needs of the company as it grows.

These are some stats that I use in my presentations to hit home the fact that small business owners make up a large percentage of businesses. (these come from the CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton)

There are 6 million firms in America. A firm is a company with a payroll.
Approximately 4 million of these firms have 4 employees or fewer.
The next group, with 5 – 10 employees numbers around 1 million.

Another 500,000 have between 10 and 20 employees.

The reason so many businesses remain small are the challenges that come with growing a sustainable business are so DIFFICULT to overcome!

Challenges include:

Cash flow
Hiring quality people
Challenge expanding sales
Limited capital to grow
Need for an improved profit design
Chaotic periods destabilize the company
The organization needs to understand how the company will grow in the future
The marketplace and your customers change too quickly
Difficulty diagnosing the real problems or obstacles to growth

A research-study conducted with 650 successfully growing companies, identified 27 Business Challenges a company will deal with as it grows. The model identified that as a company grows, the complexity increases, and that complexity is because of the addition of People. To grow a sustainable business, a company has to rely on people and this model identifies 7 distinct stages of growth that a company moves through as it grows.

Those 7 stages are:

Stage 1: Startup with 1 – 10 employees
Stage 2: Ramp Up with 11 – 19 employees
Stage 3: Delegation with 20 – 34 employees
Stage 4: Professional with 35 – 57 employees
Stage 5: Integration with 58 – 95 employees
Stage 6: Strategic with 96 – 160 employees
Stage 7: Visionary with 161 – 500 employees

My presentation explains how to ‘think’ differently about growth by understanding the hidden agents that are creating obstacles to growth. One hidden agent is called the Builder/Protector Ratio or commonly referred to as the Confidence/Caution Ratio. It identifies the Builder Mindset – these are people who love risk, search out new opportunities for growth – and the Protector Mindset – these are people who are suspicious of growth, want to slow things down. Both are critical to growing an organization.

If you are in the early stages of growing a business and there is too much Protector Mindset, the company will stall. If there is too much Builder Mindset, the company could fail. It takes understanding this hidden agent and creating a balance in the company of Builders and Protectors.

Another key hidden agent is known as the 3 Faces of A Leader. As the CEO of a company, he/she must bring three faces to play every day. The Visionary Face, the Manager Face and the Specialist Face. In Stage 1, the Specialist Face is 50% for the very reason that person is probably the reason the company started so that CEO must wear that Specialist Face 50% of the time. However, to get people excited about being at this new company, that CEO must also wear their Visionary Face 40% of the time. Since one of the non-negotiable rules in Stage 1 is to ‘hire for fit not skill’, the Manager Face is only at 10%.

The reality for CEOs who want to grow their business, is that Manager Face will begin to increase starting in Stage 2 where it grows to 20%, all the way to 70% in Stage 4. A CEO who doesn’t enjoy managing people will struggle to run a successful company if this key hidden agent is ignored. Options are to find someone who can be the Manager, sell the company when it gets to this size, or simply start over.

I mentioned that there are 27 Business Challenges. And the 7 Stages of Growth help a business owner understand which of those 27 challenges they have to focus on for their stage of growth.

The exercise I take the audience through has them reading through the list of challenges, circling their top 5 and prioritizing them. Their challenges for them are real. However, if they have ignored certain challenges that show up in their current stage of growth, that could be the ‘drag’ they feel on their organization and it may be what’s holding them back from growing.

A quick example: For Stage 2, the top challenge is Hiring Quality People. If in Stage 1, they didn’t focus on cash flow, expanding sales and allowed chaos to rule, they will not be ready to hire quality people or keep quality people.

The 4 Principles that Govern this model:

  1. As soon as you land in any stage of growth, you are getting ready for the next stage of growth
  2. What you didn’t get done in any stage of growth doesn’t go away
  3. Time will make a difference
  4. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.

The 7 Stages of Growth have helped thousands of companies over the years understand how to grow with intention instead of ‘just figuring it out as they go’.

This presentation will:

  1. Identify a company’s current, past and future stage of growth
  2. Help them identify hidden agents that may be creating obstacles to growth
  3. Identify their top five challenges they are experiencing today
  4. Help them understand their role as CEO and how their leadership skills adapt as the company grows

This was a real-time experience that I wanted to share with you to explain how I position the 7 Stages of Growth. You see that I’m not afraid to use the ‘language of growth’ because even though it’s unfamiliar (Builder/Protector and the 3 Faces of a Leader) the concepts are recognizable and now I’ve just shown them a way to explain what many business owners struggle with. If they work with small business owners, they will appreciate the clarity that comes by using that ‘language of growth’.

Remember, I’m here if you have any questions about how to market and position the 7 Stages of Growth to your audiences.


Your success. My passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!