As an online business owner, it’s only natural to feel like there’s too many things to do at any given moment.
And since you’re working with limited time, energy, money, and other resources, it can definitely be challenging to determine what exactly you should prioritize and focus on first, next, and last.
Fortunately, this is where the five stages of online business comes in.
This 5-stage framework can serve as your guide, blueprint, or roadmap to help you navigate your way through your business journey and go from where you are right now to where you want to be.
Here are the three most helpful benefits you’ll get from using this framework:
01. You’ll know where you stand
Business success is a lot about having clarity and this includes knowing where your business currently stands. Identifying what stage you’re in will give you insight as to what you’re doing well, what you’re not doing well, what you missed in the past, and what you should defer until a later time.
02. You’ll have an idea of what to expect
Knowing which stage you fall under will also clue you in as to what you can expect, giving you an opportunity to better prepare yourself. You can set realistic expectations, targets, and goals. You can anticipate possible problems and uncertainties. You can identify what to focus on (and what not to focus on). You can even spot what success looks like in your industry and line it up with your idea of success during this period.
03. You’ll get an idea of how to reach the next level
Once you identify the five vital stages of business, you can more productively go from where you are right now (current stage) to where you want to be (next stage). You can use this framework to cover all the bases and to confidently plan out the action steps required to move forward. You’ll have both a direction and a destination.
That said, here are the five vital stages of online business:
The Seed Stage
The Startup Stage
The Streamline Stage
The Scale Stage
The Stable Stage
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01. The Seed Stage
The first business stage is the seed stage and this is when you’ve first come up with a business idea. Although not fully-formed, your business idea is something you’re definitely curious about and probably excited about.
Before anything, however, it’s crucial to first make sure your business idea is viable and worth pursuing in order to prevent wasting time and resources. This boils down to many factors but this is where good old research and development comes in.
You can interview key people, look up data and statistics, and conduct initial tests to see how your business idea will be received. In some cases, you can even pre-sell or create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) so beta testers can provide you with extensive feedback.
It’s important to gather as much information as you can during this period and find answers to questions such as:
What problem does this business idea solve? Does it fill an existing gap in a market? Or does it present a new opportunity?
Who are the people going to benefit from your idea? Where can you find them? Why should they buy your product or service over someone else’s?
What products or services are already out there, if any? What are they doing well and where do they fall short?
Who are the key people in that industry? Why and how have they become key players?
If you got beta testers, how did they receive your business idea or MVP? Is it time to move forward or should you conduct more testing and research first?
02. The Startup Stage
The second business stage is the startup stage. Once you’ve verified there’s solid interest and profit potential in your business idea, you can finally launch your business.
While it might be an exciting time, you’ll definitely have a lot on your plate. On the backend, this is when you set up your business’ operations, legal, marketing, and financial aspects; however, you should still focus on tweaking and refining your product or service based on customer feedback.
Be prepared to encounter a lot of uncertainty, confusion, and trial and error so don’t expect your initial products, services, processes, and systems to immediately work out or be profitable. Focus on what’s important, stay flexible but disciplined, and track everything.
Remember, a lot of your decisions during this period will significantly impact your business’ future and trajectory so it’s best not to rush this whole process. A big mistake entrepreneurs make is to move on to the next stages of streamlining and scaling their business without establishing a solid foundation first.
03. The Streamline Stage
The third business stage is the streamline stage. At this point, your products or services are generating revenue and you have landed on processes and systems that work.
It’s now time to streamline those processes and systems so that you can generate consistent profits (and not just revenue) while eliminating bottlenecks and underperforming activities.
You can now set up automations with confidence knowing you won’t be wasting time and money on processes that aren’t working. You can even outsource or hire permanent employees to distribute your workload.
You can start thinking like a CEO and stop wearing all the hats in your business. Instead of always thinking “What do I need to do?” adopt a leadership mindset and ask, “What needs to be done?” and then delegate to your growing team.
It’s also worth noting that in this stage, your customer base is growing steadily. But with more market share comes more competition, too, so consider doubling down on your branding and marketing strategies to stay ahead of the game.
04. The Scale Stage
The fourth business stage is the scale stage. At this point, you’ve set up a solid foundation for your business, you’ve implemented effective systems, and you’ve grown a solid team to run your thriving business like clockwork.
It’s now time to scale your business.
With consistent growth and steady profits, you can invest in more advanced coaching, tools, and systems.
With a proven marketing strategy, you can hire a sales force or partner with affiliates.
With a clear organizational hierarchy, you can continue to nurture your team and give them what they need to execute at the highest levels.
With a deeper understanding of your market and more resources at your disposal, you can create and add new products or services to meet your customers in different stages of their life.
With a bigger market share, stronger brand awareness, and established authority in your industry, you can confidently diversify, expand, and take some risks (but still be cautious, of course!).
Remember that reaching this fourth stage is a huge accomplishment especially in online business. Instead of getting complacent, you can take this opportunity to find more ways to better serve your customers and employees, maybe move into new markets, or perhaps partner with (or buy) other companies.
05. The Stable Stage
The fifth business stage is the stable stage. In this stage, your business is now one of the top leaders in the industry and you’re earning stable profits year after year.
Although your growth rate might not be as steep as it was in the scale stage, your team has grown, your business has matured, and you have evolved as a CEO with exhaustive knowledge and experience under your belt.
You now have a decision to either keep expanding your business or consider a possible exit. In the first option, you can go back to the scale stage and tap into more markets or add to your business modeI while in the second option, you can sell your company or step down as CEO.
No matter which option you choose, however, you’ll definitely have a lot to consider. Do you have the necessary team and resources to successfully expand to more markets? If you sell your company, what happens to your employees, products or services, partners, and customers? If you step down as CEO, who can replace you and how do they plan to steer the company and maintain its success?
Take note that not all types of businesses will need to follow these exact same steps and not all businesses will move along these steps in the same chronological order.
So while each industry and business is unique, you can still use these five stages as a helpful guide, roadmap, or framework to more productively navigate your way through your business journey.
After reading about the stages, here are five key questions to consider:
What stage of business are you in right now?
What can you expect during this period and how can you best prepare yourself?
Are you focusing on relevant issues right now or are you jumping too far ahead?
What does success look like for your business in the next 90 days or 12 months?
What steps do you need to take to go from point A and get to point B?
With so many uncertainties in business and so much on your plate at any given moment, it helps to have a guide, roadmap, or framework to follow as you navigate your way through. Using the five stages of online business (the seed, startup, streamline, scale, and stable stages), you can determine what stage you’re currently in, identify where you want to be, and then outline the steps required to successfully lead your business to the next stage.
Share in the comments below: What stage of online business are you in? What is your biggest obstacle and what is your highest priority at this moment?
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