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Life Cycle Phases Apply to People and Small Businesses

Life Cycle Phases Apply to People and Small Businesses

A person, like a business, typically moves through distinct phases in their lifetime. They begin in a “seed” phase when they assemble or are taught skills necessary to sustain growth and maturation in their future “life”. Depending where and how they live, people learn and practice additional skills that are valuable or “marketable” to their “village”, their “tribe”, and their nation. A business outlines a mission or long-term goal based on its collective expertise.

These core competencies distinguish their product or services from others in the marketplace. The “seed” phase abruptly changes to a “startup” phase when core competencies are put into practice in real-world situations. The launch day of a business project or the first few days on a new job are when promises and expectations are judged in terms of real-world performance. People and businesses in the startup phase begin to build a history of performance against which all expectations will be forever judged.

For most of us a “seed” phase continues throughout our lifetime as in “learning something new everyday” even though the need to “earn a living” or “make a profit” dominates our time, resources, and efforts. As marketplaces grow more competitive though, you should keep in mind that learning only “one thing a day” might not be enough! An owner/manager of small business must run their enterprise the same way because market forces and competition constantly change over time. Good business practices always recommend positioning and building supplies in anticipation of future demand.

Whether person or business, as the startup phase grows into a more stable “ongoing” or “running” phase, the widening and deepening of core competencies is necessary to sustain marketability and growth. A long-term “ongoing” phase transitions into a “mature” period when growth slows or stops while residual benefits continue to accumulate or are distributed. People equate this life-cycle phase with personal retirement. Businesses, unlike people, continue to run for as long as there is net profit to fuel the enterprise and provide dividends to investors. Long-term strategic planning for both an individual and especially a small business are critical throughout the lifecycle.

Based on the similarities, we can metaphorically merge the concept of a person “running their own life” with that of running, what might be more appropriately termed here, a home-based business! This concept emphasizes having the personal freedom to live or run your life “your way” rather than according to the dictates of some external force or agent. A strong part of the successful entrepreneur is their personal motivation; they believe in themselves, they know what they want, they believe they know how to achieve it, and they prefer to do tasks their way.

The concept of mission, long-term strategic planning, an objective, decision-making process, and detached perspective in separating goal-directed needs from short-term wants all strengthen our metaphor. In fact, the perspective of running your life like a home-based business highlights several additional key concepts. For example, the “Who” and “What we are about” helps us see ourselves in relation to what is our big picture “mission in life”. Do we want security, fancy material goods, wealth to work charitable projects, or simple financial freedom to follow our “bliss” without fear of consequences? Like any business venture, we describe the “How we achieve those long-term goals” in detailed operational and marketing plans. The former operational plans list all the tasks we need to accomplish while the latter marketing plan outlines ways we fuel our goal-directed actions.

These detailed plans include short-term objectives or milestones that mark our progress and keep us on course over time toward our long-term goals. The best mission plans take time to achieve. Goal-directed actions need positive motivation to fuel their progress. They require course-corrections along the way keep those actions directed toward specific targets. We need guidelines to help us stay on course through emotional setbacks and short-term failures. We can’t predict our future but we can anticipate and thus prepare for the potholes and bumps on the path to our goals.

Identifying phases of a lifecycle, whether looking at a small business or your own life, helps orient you in “time”. Even for the most truly fortunate among us, you only have about 100 years in your life time! During those calendar years, you will likely experience several “seed” and “startup” phases and hopefully fewer “ongoing” and “mature” phases. Your ability to achieve a goal is based on (1) what you need to do, (2) how much time you have to do it, (3) the amount of resources you have to get the job done, and (4) your “sustainable” personal motivation to execute the plan from start to finish. The subtle challenge is that these four ingredients interact and change independent of each other over the course of a “lifecycle” and our personal lives. Allocation of resources and determination of risk are also affected by lifecycle phases and our calendar age. Assuming a conservative 85 year long lifetime, the comparison of a “startup” business project at 17 years of age to the same one at 65 years of age is illustrative; though the same plan, they are totally different in nature, credibility, risk, and probability of completion.

In addition, we need to always consider the uncontrollable external forces that can disrupt and even destroy the best of plans. Assuming for a moment, that you were running your life like a home-based business, are your day-to-day decisions working within guidelines that will achieve, given your best efforts, the stated goals and a long-term mission you have for your life? Will the outcome of these day-to-day decisions prove to be good investments of time, money, and effort as measured by future returns or benefits? Do you REALLY believe you will achieve the outcome? Does your enthusiasm drive you to see your goals, smell them, and taste them happening? If not, perhaps what is missing is the passion of running your life like a home-based business.