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Business Exit Plan

Every business goes through a number of changes during the course of its lifetime, and business owners should make sure they understand exactly where they are in the cycle so they can prepare for the next stage.

In this blog post, I’m going to do my best to identify each stage of the business cycle from a 30,000ft view so business owners can identify where they arena the cycle and take action, and people interested in buying a business will have a better idea of where to look and why.

The 7 Stages:

  1. Start-Up
  2. Growth
  3. Growth Slowdown
  4. Sustaining
  5. Decline
  6. Decay
  7. Failure

All Business’s have a life-cycle commonly referred to as the Business Stage.

1) Start Up:
The seed stage of your business life cycle is when your business is just a thought or an idea. This is the very conception or birth of a new business.

There are numerous challenges for a business start-up.

  • Money is tight and resources are thin
  • Marketing is new and not established
  • Customers have not yet been identified
  • Front end customer service systems are not yet established
  • Back end product delivery systems might be a bit hap-hazard

At this stage of the business the owner is way over-worked and under-paid.

You need to really watch your pennies because this is where most start-ups fail, and the number one reason is they run out of money to operate.

2) Growth Stage:
Your business is born and the doors are open. You’re selling your products and services to customers.

The phone is ringing, you are having fun and are very excited about the future.

Money is tight because you are building inventory and hiring employees, but you don’t mind because you are doing what you set out to do and are living the dream!

The Future Looks Bright!

3) Growth Slowdown Stage:
Your business has made it through the infancy stage.
Revenues and customers are increasing as well as other opportunities.

You’re making money and find yourself somewhat mired in the mud of day to day operations. Dealing with employees and customers.

The fun and exciting part is beginning to wain because you are busy working “in” the business more and more.

You begin to realize this thing you created is growing bigger than you can effectively handle and you realize you can’t do it all.

This is the optimum time for a business owner to sell – This where the business will sell for the most amount of money because it has a solid growth record. It is also at the point that it isn’t fun anymore foe the owner.

If nothing else, it at this stage of the business cycle that the owner should begin planning an exit strategy.

4) Sustaining Stage:
Your business has now matured into a thriving company with a place in the market and loyal customers. Sales growth is not explosive but manageable. Business life has become more routine.

This is where you begin to rest on your laurels and begin to back off a bit. You feel you have worked hard to get where you are and deserve a bit of time to coast. Most business owners at this stage begin to get bored and neglect to pay attention to the competition.

This is where most business should begin thinking of selling – right when the begin to get bored with the business. The owner has reached their peter principal  and stop growing.

This is where the business owner should do one of two things –

  • SELL: This is the big opportunity for your business to cash in on all the effort and years of hard work. before its too late, or
  • Begin expanding through acquiring the competition – especially the competitors that have entered stage 6 or 7.

5) Decline Stage:
This where the business owner has mentally checked out.
They might be bored to tears with the business and lost interest, turned it over to management, or simply lost focus.

Competition might have taken a bite out of the business, or changes in the economy or market conditions. All of which can decrease sales and profits.

Unfortunately for most companies, this is where the owner has to take immediate and drastic action to get the business back on track, but they do the exact opposite.

Instead of investing in the business and taking back the reigns, they make cuts to marketing and advertising, they stop investing in the business and begin cutting back on everything.
Unfortunately for the owner, they are in denial about just about everything pertaining to the business and they tend to look the other way.

They are unknowingly becoming “Don’t-Wanters” in the business.

(This is where I teach my students and clients to begin looking for business to buy so they can get a good deal and turn things around quickly before its too late.)

6) Decay Stage:
Denial has set in completely and it shows – the more revenue drops, the more the cutbacks.

This is about the time when most business owners snap out of it and decide to sell the business and get out.

Unfortunately, it is way late in the game for them to get a good price for the business because previous sales show a negative trend and buyers are quite hesitant to buy a declining business.

This is the last chance for the business owner to get honest with themselves and face reality. It is the last chance for them to either get with it and grow revenue, or get out.

If They Don’t ……  Stage 7 Is Imminent.

7) Failure Stage:
Game over – the business owner puts a lock on the door and liquidates inventory is a going to of business sale. All those years of hard work and sacrifice are down the drain. Dreams shattered, employees lives turned upside down, jobs lost, etc.

According to business broker statistics, only 24% of business sell, leaving about 76% of business listed for sale that end up closing their doors with a going out of business sale with shattered dreams.

Understanding where your business fits on the life cycle will help you foresee upcoming challenges and make the best business decisions.
Whether your business is a glowing success or a dismal failure depends on your ability to adapt to its changing life cycles.

There you have it ….. the 7 stages of a business cycle.


I’m a Business Exit Specialist.
I work with business owners and help them develop a realistic Business Exit Plan that is special and unique to their individual goals.

I also coach and teach people how to increase the value of their business without increasing sales, or working any harder than they already do.

Feel free to contact me so you can begin working on your Business Exit Plan and being increasing the value of your business so when the time comes, you can exercise your business exit plan and walk away wealthy.

About the Author Paul Forsberg

I Solve Business Puzzles and Help People Buy, Build & Sell Businesses For Monthly Cash Flow & BIG Paydays. Author #1 Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The 5 Fundamental Elements of Every Successful Business .... Why Most Businesses Cannot Be Sold & What You Can Do About It."

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