The Business Life Cycle – Where Do You Fit?

Every organization goes through different phases – it’s all part of the business life cycle. The phases may have different names, but they follow where an organization is in its own evolution. The phase that currently exists helps to guide how the organization operates at that given point.

· The introductory or start-up stage when the organization is new and fresh. I like to think of this as the spring of the organization. New ideas are being planted and starting to spring to life. There’s lots of creativity, innovation, and energy.
· The growth stage when the organization is meeting the demands of its markets and clients, customers and other stakeholders. I like to think of this as summer. The seeds of ideas that were planted are being cultivated and the resulting products and processes have to be managed.
· The maturity stage when the organization experiences a leveling out. You’re enjoying the results of your hard work and expansion but you may be seeing increasing pressure from the competition. You need to be flexible. I like to think of this as autumn when there is still plenty of activity, but things start to quiet down. The excitement and the newness of the introductory or start-up phase has waned.
· The decline stage when the organization stays entrenched in the past and doesn’t breathe new life – like winter when everything goes dormant. Customers can lose interest as product development ceases to exist and key employees leave. Of course, the winter is a great time to sit back and contemplate rather than hibernate. The decline stage doesn’t have to be the death of the organization if leaders are willing to pause and make substantive changes.

In our fast-paced business environment, many organizations have to make these substantive changes. So many retailers, including the formidable Saks Fifth Avenue are finding that they have to be nimble in this age of the on-line marketplace. A pork and lamb farmer who sells at my local farmer’s market in the spring and summer takes orders during the winter – when things tend to be dormant – and has weekly drop-off points near the locations of the spring and summer markets. An innovative way to generate income during the cold months.

Recognizing and managing the various stages of the organization’s life cycle is not only important for leaders, but the associates as well. We’ve heard stories about the innovative leader who’s great at getting something off the ground. Once the newness and excitement is gone, the challenges of growth are overwhelming and the business is sold. Associates, as well, thrive in different stages.

If it’s stability and the status quo that makes you thrive, then an organization in the maturity stage is best suited for you. Don’t get too comfortable though. As that organization moves to decline, your future may not be that stable. Can you play a role in revitalizing it? Are you comfortable with creativity and doing things differently – which is exactly what the organization needs! If you’re not, the change you’ll need to make is to move on to a new organization – one in which you’ll thrive and not merely survive!

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