Understanding where you are on your entrepreneurial journey can help you grow your business faster, and more sustainably. In working with thousands of owners through Cultivate Advisors, a small business advising firm, we’ve recognized common patterns every entrepreneur encounters on their journey from 0-$10M.

We’ve identified 5 key stages of the business journey. As you grow from one stage to the next, so does what you should focus on. Keep reading to learn which stage you’re in and how to navigate through the challenges to take your business to the next stage.

Entrepreneur walking on steps in business center
Entrepreneur walking on steps in business center

Your business stage says a lot about where your focus should be as an owner. Understanding the business phase will help you identify what you need to propel to the next stage. While there is no universal guide to being a successful entrepreneur, we’ve learned that the key to growing your business begins with understanding where you are on your journey so you can focus on the right things that will provide the greatest impact.

Stage 1: Hustler

Illustration of hustler staying up all night

When you first start your business, you’re a hustler. At this point, you’re managing all aspects of the business, so it can be hard to pinpoint what should take priority. You might feel like you’re always putting out fires and not quite making the strides to elevate your business to the next phase.

Challenges: Nothing happens without you. It can feel like you’re constantly putting out fires and you still haven’t identified a steady lead funnel.

Opportunity: Mastering sales is crucial. By aligning your time and goals with your revenue needs, you will become more productive and generate more revenue to gain the resources needed to scale.

Stage 2: Experimenter

Illustration of entrepreneur experimenting business ideas

As an experimenter, you’ve hired your first few employees. You have opened up time to focus on the business while continuing your efforts as the lead sales rep as you navigate your new leadership expectations.

Challenges: You’ve proved this isn’t just a hobby. You need to identify what resonates with your audience while identifying and holding tension to your standards for quality control.

Opportunity: Now is the time to take calculated risks. Say ‘yes’ to most opportunities as you figure out how your business scales. Build your team with entrepreneurial generalists that will be comfortable wearing many hats.

Stage 3: Visionary

Illustration of visionary looking through binoculars

As a visionary, you’ve grown your business organically which opens up the space to allow you to start working on the business. You’re starting to delegate the sales hat to someone else in your organization and instead you’re turning your attention to hiring top talent to fill your organization.

Challenges: It can be uncomfortable as you continue to give up control. When you have your hands in all aspects of the business, you prevent your team from doing their job and create unnecessary bottlenecks.

Opportunity: Your leadership skills and ability to attract top talent will define your success in this stage. Invest in yourself and invest in the people to help you lead the company you have built.

Stage 4: Systemizer

Illustration of businessman cranking money out of machine

As a systemizer, you’re starting to build a leadership team that will enable you to peel away from areas of the business. You will continue to grow the team but will need to have guardrails in place to support the continued scale.

Challenges: With a desire to repeat your success, you will find it difficult to provide the same product or experience at scale without turn-key systems in place.

Opportunity: Develop your managers into leaders. As you navigate interim roles within the organization to support the build-out of the leadership team, you must build the systems with your newly assigned leaders.

Stage 5: Influencer

Illustration of influencer speaking to audience on stage

As an influencer, you’ve got the right people, systems, and product/service in place. You’ve accomplished so much, but the road ahead has all new challenges. You’ll see bigger growth opportunities through external expansion tactics while you continue to mitigate risks and threats.

Challenges: Keeping the right people in your company is integral to the continued success of your business. Continue to push the limits of your people while driving to a performance culture.

Opportunity: You’re leading to the goal and destination but allowing your leadership team to create the path. Give your trusted leadership team the freedom to lead your people and business to success.

What business stage are you in? Take this quick quiz to find out.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.