The “take-off” phase can’t last forever. At some stage, there will be no more opportunity for rapid growth, and you’ll need to navigate the final stage, in which your small business has grown into a mature, stable company. That brings challenges and opportunities of its own.
At this stage, you’ll need to figure out how to deal with slowing growth and a more stable company. Consider:
How do you retain the energy that kept you and your staff going through the rapid growth phase?
How do you consolidate the gains you’ve made and lay plans for existence as a larger company, without losing the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit?
How do you find new avenues for growth, even if not at such a rapid pace as before?
You’ll also need to continue the process of personal detachment from the company that we talked about in the earlier stages. Whereas, at the beginning of the journey, you were in total control, now you may not be involved in day-to-day management at all. Micro-management is the worst thing to practice at this stage.
Along with the challenges the offered opportunities are profound, but of course, the journey of a business is never really complete. You can diversify your products/services, consider buying other businesses, or continue fine-tuning your existing business to deal with the inevitable changes in your industry that may challenge your business model. Without the constant fuel of rapid growth, you’ll need to manage your resources more carefully to ensure sustainability.
Consider splitting your company more clearly into departments, each with its own budget and management structure. Set new objectives for your managers, based not so much on continued fast growth as on efficiency and innovation.
Keep in mind that, as a large, stable company, you’re now at risk from the smaller, nimbler companies like the one you used to be yourself in the earlier stages. Look for future trends and try to stay on top of them, both by innovating within the company and by acquiring smaller companies that are doing innovative things themselves.
What’s interesting, however, is that a model devised more than 30 years ago has proved so durable and applicable to so many different companies. Even if you need to adapt it slightly to fit your own circumstances, the points we’ve covered today can help you plan effectively for the future of your small business as it grows, hopefully, from Stage 1 all the way through to Stage 5!
Note: Blog series of 5 Stages of Small Business Growth ends with this blog.