There Comes a Time

There comes a time in the life of every business when a transition happens. It does not have to be due to changing technology and new competitors in the market. Sometimes, transitions happen simply because it’s time for a transition.

Organizations go through a natural lifecycle. At some point, they start. For whatever reason — a gap in the market, untapped demand, new technology, a new approach — founders create a new organization. That¬†startup¬†is one in which you are figuring out your approach, trying different plans, identifying your values and priorities, setting up your revenue streams, and basically getting things going.

Then you move into a growth phase, when you take those initial plans that you worked out and put them into action. You establish yourself, build a brand, grow your clientele, and maybe start moving into additional markets.

Once you have found your niche and grown into it, organizations enter a maturity phase where they reap the rewards of all their work. Changes at this point tend to be incremental: doing things in a new way, perhaps, rather than doing new things. Depending on your particular situation, you might stay in this phase for a long time, or it may be short.

Ultimately, there comes a time when you move into the next phase, and that phase could take you in one of two directions: either the demise of the organization, or its rebirth. If markets, technology, or other factors overtake you and you don’t adapt, you may go out of business at this point. Consider Kodak, which did not see the effect digital cameras would have, and which went bankrupt in 2012. When it emerged in 2013 it was a much smaller company. An alternative is to reposition yourself as a new kind of company. Think about Apple, which evolved from a computer manufacturer to a digital connectivity firm (as well as a music store, a bank, and many other things).

If you go through a rebirth, you re-enter the cycle at the startup point. Then you go through many of the same processes again, even if you are bigger this time around. If you go through a demise, though, you’re done.

One thing you should think about would be your leadership needs in each phase. A founder and CEO of a startup may or may not be the right person to lead a growth company. There’s a better chance they are the wrong person for a mature company. The skills and attitudes needed to start something are different from those needed to make small improvements. Not everyone has both sets, so you may need a leadership change as you transition from one phase to the next. At the least, you need to develop new skills.

An organization’s life cycle is a natural process; you can’t fight it. What you can do is be ready for each phase. Make the changes you need in order to make that transition a successful one.