From Start to Success: Grasping the Four Crucial Business Development Phases

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Embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship often resembles setting sail into uncharted waters. The challenges and uncertainties that come with it can be overwhelming, and tales of failure and hardship serve as horror stories for the newly indentured. 

In the quest for success, it’s a common experience for budding entrepreneurs to view their businesses as “broken” when they encounter hurdles along the way. However, Mark Silver, the visionary founder of the Heart of Business, has spent over two decades debunking this misconception. Through his extensive experience and expertise, he has uncovered a profound truth: businesses are not broken; they are merely evolving through distinct phases of development.

In this enlightening exploration, we delve into Mark Silver’s insights and guidance on these crucial phases of business development, offering a roadmap for entrepreneurs to navigate their entrepreneurial voyage with compassion, truth, and focus.

So many business owners think their businesses are broken and need fixing. And while there’s a little bit of truth in that the business isn’t performing the way they hoped it would, usually they are really wrong about the “broken” part. We spoke with Mark Silver of Heart of Business about this. 

What I’ve observed over more than twenty years and thousands of micro-sized businesses, is that businesses go through stages of development. What someone thinks of as “broken” is usually just the business being in an earlier stage of development than they thought it should be.

Before I explain the stages, I want you to know the two reasons it’s so important to get this.

The first reason is that it’s way more pleasant to develop a business than to fix something you think is broken. If you’re looking for broken, you may miss things that are just absent.

When our kids were really young, they couldn’t help clean the house. Now that they are teens, they vacuum, mow the lawn, wash the car, do the dishes and more. It’s a miracle! But I would never have thought that at toddler age they were broken somehow because they couldn’t do those things.

The same goes for your business. It’s a way more truthful and compassionate view.

The second reason is that to take a business all the way from startup to momentum… there’s a lot! If you know the stage of development your business is in, it helps you focus. You not only know what you need to work on, you also know what you can safely ignore and leave for later, sometimes months later.

Compassionate. Truthful. And focusing. So let me explain the stages.

The First Stage: Creation.

In this stage the business owner is just starting out. Many people get lured into the most visible, and expensive, things like branding and websites, or sophisticated marketing strategies. But it’s way too early for that.

If you get the fundamentals in place first, it makes the later stages so much easier. The four fundamentals of this stage are:

  • Defining who you’re trying to reach.
  • Crafting your first offer and pricing it.
  • Learning how to hold a focused, effective, ethical sales conversation.
  • How to effectively ask for referrals.

That’s it. Everything else is built on this. This first, with focus, can be moved through in weeks or short months. 

The Second Stage: Concentration

Here the business owner has discovered some things that work, and can start to develop structures and put in place elements that help them expand their reach.

What you’ll be working on here to solidify and move through this stage is

  • Clarifying and expanding your core message.
  • Developing an effective website.
  • Creating consistent, compelling content.
  • Working on heart-centered, authenticity-based, networking.

You’ll also start to experiment with systems and maybe even add some support, like an accountant, or virtual assistant.

These elements help the business run more smoothly, and you start to bring in money, significant money.

Feast or Famine in the Second Stage

It’s common, almost universal, that in the second stage the business will experience a feast or famine dynamic. Because the business owner has put effective elements into place, the business starts to work! Clients and money come in. The business owner gets busy!

Consequently, it’s hard to keep up the things they were doing that made them busy. Eventually, clients complete, the work dies down, things get slow.

So, the business owner gets busy again, but it’s not like turning on a faucet, and there’s a lag before new clients come in.

 This feast or famine dynamic is solved in the Third Stage.

The Third Stage: Momentum

In the third stage, the business moves into a place where it can be relied upon. Even in the ups and downs of business, the low-tide mark is still profitable enough to support the business owner.

This is also where things get more sophisticated, and it’s worth it at this point.

The elements needed are:

  • Establishing core systems so the business can run more reliably.
  • Get just enough support so all aspects of the business can be kept up even when business is booming, not necessarily anyone on payroll, although sometimes that’s true.
  • Implement more consistent and sophisticated marketing, which keeps things going.
  • Working on the business model, a garden path of offers, that lifts any ceilings on income or capacity the owner was hitting.

With those elements in place, the business can really fly.

The Optional Fourth Stage: Independence.

This stage refers to a business that has become a company, one that can run without the owner. There’s a team, there’s often others delivering services, even if the owner is still involved, but it really runs independently of the owner.

When a client says they want a Fourth Stage business, I always push back hard. It’s because it requires a completely different skill set, and a lot of financial and time resources to make this leap.

You have to be ready to become a CEO, and let go of being a practitioner, at least for a while. Often a business owner can get everything they want from their business just by getting to a stable, humming Stage Three. 

The elements you need to get to the fourth stage include:

  • Evolving your business model that works at a significantly larger scale.
  • Developing a way to deliver services that doesn’t include you.
  • Hire and lead a team who have their full focus on the business.
  • Expand your marketing scale, so your scaled business model is filled up.

As you can see, these are ambitious elements that will take money and often a couple of years to put into place. It also requires a real surrender of control as other people take on sensitive aspects of the business that previously only you touched.

Founder’s syndrome is real, and it’s where the founder of a business, in attempting to expand it, holds onto everything too tightly, and isn’t open to learning how to become a true leader. Or, sometimes, being willing to hire someone else as the CEO if they discover they just don’t have the skills, gifts, or inclination to make it work.

Development takes time and attention.

Businesses can spend literally years in an early stage of development because the business owner didn’t know how to think developmentally, and instead just kept trying to fix things.

Our clients universally feel a huge sense of relief at understanding this developmental model and where their business is on it. They can finally have a roadmap, and can focus on true priorities, instead of being pulled in a million directions and getting nowhere.

Compassion. Truth. Focus. Because your business isn’t broken, it’s just developing.

About Mark Silver: Since 1999, Mark Silver has worked with heart-centered entrepreneurs to help them realize that every act of business can be an act of love. One of the pioneers in integrating real spirituality with the nitty-gritty of small business, Mark founded Heart of Business, Inc in 2001. As a designated Master Teacher within his Sufi lineage, and a coach, teacher and spiritual healer, he has facilitated thousands of individual sessions with entrepreneurs and has led hundreds of classes, seminars, groups and retreats. His weekly writings and teachings are followed by thousands of people around the globe. A fourth-generation entrepreneur, prior to Heart of Business Mark ran a distribution business, turned around a struggling non-profit magazine, and worked as a paramedic in Oakland, CA. He is the author of 7 books, including his latest, Heart Centered Business: Healing from Toxic Business Culture so Your Small Business Can Thrive


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