Businesses Have a Life Cycle, Too


I have had the opportunity to be involved, one way or another, with a lot of businesses throughout my career. While they were all different, there are still some big-picture similarities between all of them. One set of similarities resides in the stages of each business’ life cycle.

They all, at some point, start out in the entrepreneurial phase. It’s in this phase that each business vies for Viability. The owner(s) pour their heart and soul into the business trying to make it reach and surpass the break-even sales level. The owners work IN the business almost exclusively.

Once profitable, the business goal becomes to emerge from the rest of the pack and get noticed as a provider-of-choice. Credibility is the goal of this stage. Necessarily, the owners begin to work ON the business more and more.

The third stage of a business’ life cycle is when the business becomes an established member of its community or industry. Here, Stability is watchword. Owners may be working almost exclusively ON the business at this point. Often times, this is that stage where the owners gain from some introspection and reach out to valued mentors and coaches to seek help on the next steps. Nothing wrong with that. None of us knows everything.

The fourth stage often happens when the owners get ready to sell the business or are simply tired and go into auto-pilot mode. This is the erosion phase where the growth stops and the business often shrinks. This is know for its Vulnerability.

Now, just because a business has become vulnerable does not necessarily mean the end is in site. It’s actually a “fork in the road.” The owners (either original or new owners post exit) have two choices: 1. Keep riding the current path and ride it to the end, or 2. They can look for new opportunities to re-grow the business. This might be new products/services, an acquisition by which to add volume or diversify. Perhaps an infusion of new leadership is in order. The options are many and only a thorough analysis of the situation (along with a lot of prayer) will reveal the best path forward.

If you are in phases 1-3, enjoy the grind and keep your eyes on the horizon. If you have hit Vulnerability, don’t despair. You have options other than simply letting it die. Remember the grinding stage. Take a deep breath and dig back in. I’m in this stage right now. I choose to fight!

How to Experience More Success and Less Stress as an Entrepreneur

A Guest Article by Chelsea Lamb of

Being your own boss and setting your own stage for success can be the most exciting and rewarding way to make a living. However, being an entrepreneur is also really hard, and being personally responsible for the success or failure of a company can add stress to your daily life. If you’re aware of the risks and still want to make the jump to entrepreneurship, there are ways to prepare that will help lay a path to success and reduce the everyday stress that comes with it.

Setting Your Goals

When it comes to entrepreneurship, the best place to start is figuring out what you want your business to be. Some people come into it with a lifetime of passion for a certain industry, while others need to take time evaluating what they enjoy and are good at. Once you determine what kind of products or services you will provide, you’ll need to narrow your target audience to a niche. Figuring out these factors will help you know what kind of funding you’ll need (if any).

Determining a Business Structure

This part of entrepreneurship is not particularly riveting for most people, but it’s important nonetheless. The business structure you choose will affect how the government taxes your profits, how protected your personal assets are, and how you will go about your long-term plans for the business. Many new business owners go with a sole proprietorship, because it’s the simplest structure overall. Other common business structures include a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, and C corporation.

Hiring a Web Developer

You’re probably aware that in today’s world, a good website for your small business is a must. While there are many website platforms that offer free services these days, making your site stand out among the competition may require a little more effort. For most businesses, this means hiring a web developer to tackle creating a professional online presence.

One of the better solutions is hiring a JavaScript developer. Making good use of JavaScript can significantly boost your ROI and impress a wide range of customers. Also, JavaScript is mobile-friendly, so the look and function of your site will be consistent across various devices (e.g., computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.).

A professional JavaScript developer can make your site more dynamic and showcase the products you want to push the most. However, choosing the right expert is critical to ensuring you don’t waste your money, so make sure that any candidate you’re considering is proficient in the following:

Utilizing Payroll, Time and Attendance, and HR Solutions

At some point—whether it’s when you’re starting your business or down the road as you add employees—you will likely need help in the areas of payroll, time and attendance, and HR. As G & A Partners explains, outsourcing can be your best solution in this regard. Otherwise, shuffling tax tables, sorting HR rules and regulations, and even time tracking can become unwieldy prospects, when your time and energy would be better spent on other tasks.

Creating a Workspace

It’s more common than ever for entrepreneurs to work from home. It not only saves money on office space, but it also comes with ultimate flexibility and freedom, and it doesn’t require a commute. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort to stay motivated and focused on your work, then setting up a comfortable workspace at home that inspires productivity is likely to be your best option. Just be sure to get everything you need to stay comfortable and productive, such as a quality chair and desk, as well as any supplies and decor you need to fulfill your tasks and distinguish the area from the rest of the home.

Starting your own business won’t be easy. But you can put yourself in a position to succeed and mitigate stress by establishing clear goals, choosing the best structure for your business, and investing in a professional website. Finally, be sure to set up an adequate workspace at home, and consider HR solutions to make your operations more efficient.

If you’re having difficulty getting started or your business hasn’t prospered as much as you’d like, it’s time to seek outside guidance. Fairway Business Advisors can help your business succeed by offering coaching in strategic planning, leadership, financial analysis, process improvement, and more.

Photo Credit: Burst

Business Plans Aren’t Just for Start-ups

When I work with a client that wants to start a business, the first question out of my mouth after hearing about their dream, and their journey to it is, “Have you written a business plan yet?”

There are a number of reasons why they need a business plan. First and foremost, the business plan and its financial forecast is the “proof of the pudding” for their concept. It also acts as a guide as they make preparations to launch the business in order to make sure they don’t get enticed by some shiny object and get off track (that would never happen to an entrepreneur). Finally, a well thought out and presented business plan is critical in getting start-up and operating capital whether it is from a bank or investors.

Once the plan is done I look them in the eye and warn them not to just throw this in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. It needs to be a living, breathing document that serves to guide the growth and development of their business. Of course, when my time with them is over, I have no idea what they do with their business plans. But, I can usually make an educated guess based on how their business is doing.

When I work with plateaued or struggling business that have been around for a while, one of the early questions is, “Have you written a business plan lately?” Blank stares typically follow.


As cliché as it sounds, business don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. The marketplace changes. A major client gets acquired or goes out of business. Technology makes the products you have been producing obsolete (printed catalogs anyone?). We have a pandemic. The business is growing beyond what was ever imagined and the growing pains are fierce.

That business plan, if it came out of the drawer once or twice a year, should have been updated for potential events that might help or hurt the business. The strategies and tactics needed to capitalize on or protect against these eventualities should have at least been discussed so the business is not caught completely flat-footed.

Of course, I don’t personally know anyone that foresaw Covid-19 and the ensuing severe reactions from our government agencies. But, many companies were quick to pivot and take advantage of things like the need for face shields, physical distancing floor graphics and hand sanitizer. My guess is that many of the businesses had spent some amount of time thinking, “what if;” even if it was not a full-blown formal planning process. At least it created a flexible, creative mindset within the company.

Just like the ad slogan, “Orange juice: It’s not just for breakfast anymore,” business plans are not just for start-ups anymore, either.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In the US, we have reached the point in the Covid-19 pandemic that more cities and states are issuing shelter-in-place orders every day. This is creating a substantial hardship on our nation’s small businesses. While there are government programs available now to provide aid (you can easily find these via Google), it still is going to be a while before we get back to normal. For now, we need to survive.

While we are busy surviving, we need to be thinking about not only recovering, but about what fundamental strategic and tactical changes we can make to our businesses to be stronger for this pain. We cannot simply go back to what we were. The economy will NOT be what it was prior to the pandemic. A recession will still be taking place for several months even as we climb out of it. What do we need to do?

Right now, conserve your cash. Take government programs, offer discounts, cut back hours and reduce expenses as needed. I will suggest that, if you cut hours or enact layoffs that you, as the owner, participate in a bigger way than your team. Lead by example.

Concurrently, research what your industry has looked like as recessions of the past have come and gone. Make needed adjustments. If you aren’t sure how to make the needed changes, get a mentor/coach. Use every resource you can get your hands on to restructure and re-tool. Be ready for whatever is next.

The changes won’t be the same for every industry. Some industries are counter-cyclical; they do better when the economy is down and consumers pull back spending (think fixing your car vs. buying new). Others will have an extended recovery timeframe. They will need to market hard, and get creative about products, services and delivery channels to stay “in the game” until the economy improves.

We cannot assume that what worked before will work now. Access every resource you can in order to lead your business back. Don’t be shy. Be bold. Your team and customers are counting on you.

In What Roles Do You Also Lead?

Over the course of time, I have read numerous books on leadership and have attended trainings, as well. Without fail, all of them talked about leadership at work. Perhaps that was due to purchasing bias on my part because I wanted to be the best leader I could be in my career.

Being in the midst of my 60th trip around the sun, I find myself being more reflective. Not so much to second guess my past, but to make sure I get the final chapters right. One of my very recent reflections has been centered on where, besides at work, have I been a leader and where have I been the best leader. There are two non-work parts of my life that called me to be a leader: my family and my church.

As for my church (churches, actually), I have held leadership roles since our very first church in Greenfield, WI back in 1985. I held various leadership roles in different functions. Over the years, the health of the areas under my leadership seemed to improve. Of course, it wasn’t so much what I did as it was what God did through me, so I really can’t take any credit. Still, with God’s ample assistance, I think I have led well in those rolls.

In my business career, I’ve had positive impacts on my employers and my businesses over the course of time. Stumbles were many, but I kept getting better and the businesses grew more profitable. I was blessed to have really good people with which to work (both as bosses and as co-workers) and we accomplished much. Hopefully, I had some level of influence upon those successes.

Upon a lot of reflection, the most important leadership opportunity that I have had was in my family. If I am honest, however, it’s in this role in which I think I’ve done my poorest job of leading. One could say that a family is the most complex and demanding of these three leadership roles. That could be true, but that really is no excuse. The fact of the matter is that it’s been the leadership role for which I was the least prepared…and the one that scared me the most.

We are all driven by something. That “thing” for me has often been the fear of failure. I don’t know what it is for me about leading my family that made me flinch, but I did. In business, I attacked and shored up my weaknesses. In church, I gave God my hands and my heart and let him use me. But at home….I just felt inadequate.

I don’t share this with you to pout. My main conclusion from this reflection mirrors advice that I give my coaching clients: NONE of us knows everything. I tell them to build on their strengths and hire to fill in for their weaknesses (either via employees or mentors). In my personal life, my loving and patient wife has filled in for all my holes as we raised our family. Our sons have turned into fine young men and I simply cannot describe how proud of them I am. She is that perfect example of surrounding ourselves with team mates that complete us. Of course, I didn’t hire her (I doubt she would have taken the job). Instead, God saw in her exactly what I needed and He put us together. Perhaps, he saw in me exactly what she needed, too. Together we led our family. We had each others’ back and we pressed onward. She is my greatest blessing. On this Valentines week, I celebrate her.

Who fills in your holes? Celebrate them!

Time For Some Adult Supervision

Last night, a client who is also a good friend and a brother in Christ messaged me. He asked, “Do you think there is any chance of civility in this country anymore?” Figuring he was referring to the SOTU dust-up I replied, “There is always a chance, but the 2 parties’ leaders need to show the way. Pelosi and Trump won’t get that done. Both are petulant children.”

Now, depending the side of the aisle on which you sit, you may not like that last statement. Well…the truth hurts and that statement is the truth. We have fallen into this mode of “if you don’t agree with me then I must hate you.” That is a massive fallacy. We don’t have to agree with everything someone believes, in order to extend brotherly/sisterly love to them. Jesus reminded us in the second part of the Great Commandment “…love your neighbor as yourself.”

In politics, in society and in business we are NEVER going to agree 100% with those around us. But to succeed in any endeavor, we must work together and that requires a little grace, a little mercy and a whole lotta love (to quote Led Zeppelin). As leaders, it is our duty to model that behavior and show the way. Let’s start today!!

Lonely at The Top

There are a lot of old sayings about leadership that allude to the lonesomeness of leading people. For example, “It’s lonely at the top.” Or, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Also, “Leaders are like eagles. They don’t flock together; you find them one at a time.” It’s ironic because leaders, by definition, have to have followers. In larger organizations, the leaders are surrounded by people yet can, and do, still feel alone.

While there is a tendency for all leaders to feel this way from time to time, it does NOT have to be a constant in a leader’s life. In my observations and personal leadership experience, one of the biggest mistakes we make as leaders is in assuming that we have to have all the answers. The reality is that this point of view is putting undue pressure on ourselves. NOBODY knows everything.

We all have holes, blind spots, weaknesses, whatever you want to call it. Yet, the people that surround us have brains too (yes, it’s true)!! We need to be better at inclusively tapping into those brains to improve our organizations. This releases the self-imposed pressure of “knowing-it-all” and….it lifts up our team and shows how much we value them. What a powerful innovation engine that creates!