How to scale: business growth and how to sustain it
Les McKeown spoke at the Inc5000 conference on the stages of business growth and how to achieve predictable success
Phase 1 is Early Struggle: a race against time. You may think you have a
profitable, sustainable market, but what you actually have is a
profitable customer. Remember that 80% of businesses fail. If you want
to startup, there is only one strategy: stop being one! Get out of the
early struggle phase.
Phase 2 is Fun. This is where you find the profitable market. It looks
like this: sell, sell, sell! This phase requires a Visionary to drive
and a ruthless Operator to deliver. And this way, somehow things get
done, even on unrealistic schedules.
Phase 3 is White Water, the point at which the Visionary and the
Operator can no longer continue to improvise. The degree of complexity
required reaches a tipping point, and the ball is dropped. Systems and
processes are required, and the McGyver-type Operator and the cool
Visionary are NOT the right people to implement processes and create
consistency out of chaos. A Processor is needed: someone who lives by
The audience had a bit of fun with the recognizable types of the Visionary, the Operator and the Processor.
Phase 4 is Predictable Success, and it’s the only phase at which a
business can scale. At this phase, the Visionary, Operator and Processor
work together well. However, this can be followed by the Treadmill
phase at which the systems and processes are overemphasized, and the
checklist becomes more important than the thing the checklist is for.
The Visionary at this point leaves, and the business drifts in the Big
Rut and can eventually die. The key is to go back to phase 4 Predictable
McKeown made his handouts and resources available if you’d like to download them for free.