This article is part of a series about the 7 ages of a business, an entrepreneur perspective, initially published at eDragonu.ro. The remaining 6 articles are published as guest posts on other 6 fine personal development and business blogs. You will find links to them at the end of this article.
Now you know what to do and you're doing it. You're past learning, you enjoy having, using and promoting your construction. The maturity period is the most rewarding age from an entrepreneur standpoint. You're in the middle of something but you can also control it and observe it from the outside. You can't be wrong.
Whenever your cash-flow is steadily positive for more than 2 years, you can bet you're in a maturity period. Steady pool of clients and loyal employees are also a sign of a business maturity. If you stared the business with outside financing, this is usually the time when you're able to pay your debt and make break even.
Past partnerships are running smoothly because they were verified in the attention period. Your products or services are solid and you make a lot of recurring sales. Your clients knows you and you don't need to convince them to buy from you anymore, they're just buying. Your role is mostly to observe and adjust.
What To Avoid
Although you reached a more than stable point, there are still some thins you can do wrong in your maturity period. Here's what I find out it's better to avoid:
This is the biggest trap in the maturity period. Being successful doesn't necessarily mean you DID IT. One of the secrets of successful entrepreneurs is that they never think they did it. Success is just a temporary station on the road to the next one. Nevertheless, the relaxation temptation will be very strong. After the first 3 periods of very high involvement, all you have to do now is to observe and adjust. Just don't relax too much otherwise you'll miss some important details and you won't make the necessary adjustments.
This must confuse some of you. In the maturity period, I avoided all kind of partnerships. All my successful partnerships were done in the attention phase. But in the maturity period, although I received almost weekly a new partnership proposal, I avoided it constantly. At some level, I was just postponing the most important ones to the next stage, the expansion. And at the other level, I was trying to avoid some brand dissolution. If you're known in your market, the best way to still be remembered is to just remain the same.
Just because you can predict your processes and profit of your company doesn't mean you're ready to expand. In my experience, expansion was a constant temptation, during all stages, but was much more present when I experienced a moderated success. Expansions means partnerships and the same reason for avoiding partnerships was applied to expansion: keeping a strong market image. Also, expansion works much better if you have at least 3 years fo constant growth behind.
What To Do
As always, each business stage is better suited for specific activities. Here's something I successfully did during the maturity stage.
Don't be afraid to put your money where your business is. Invest constantly in your processes, in your employees, in your products. Your positive cash-flow will be able to sustain short and medium term investments. Depending on your business type you will want to invest in materials, stocks or people. I had a business in services so most of the investment was done in people. I started to add consistent incentives to increase performance and started a team building program. And of course, I started to invest in me, by attending several courses and starting an MBA. Didn't finish the MBA, but it was a nice experience.
It's your right! You're successful, enjoy it. I met a lot of entrepreneurs in the maturity stage of their business with quite a sad attitude. Although they had a successful business they were constantly worrying. Most of them lost their businesses shortly after the maturity period. I do think a balanced and happy attitude is one of the keys to constant success. There is no better stage to really enjoy the benefits of your work than the maturity period. As long as enjoying is not equal relaxation, you'll be fine.
During this relatively stable period it will also be very good to start preparing for the next challenges. Maturity is usually followed by expansion, one of the most demanding and risky periods in your business. Approaching it in a good shape will be one clever move. Preparing means observing your market, identifying other key players, assessing new products and markets, hunting for new employees. All that will be needed in the next stage. Preparing also ,means observing your cash-flow and making provisions for your next fights. Last, but not least, prepare means just getting ready to run again.
From Maturity To Expansion
If you made it till maturity, you've already accomplished a lot. But you're not even by far at the end of race. You're heading towards expansion. The next phase will be demanding and you better get ready for it. I remember that, when I was in the maturity stage, I had no idea that I'm facing expansion, so I made one of the mistakes I told you to avoid: I relaxed too much. When I had to face the decision: grow or die, it was like hitting a train. Well, I survived.
The maturity period lasted about 3 years for me (from a total time frame of 10 years of having a business from the first stage to the last one). It was the only period where I enjoyed a positive cash-flow and also it was the most fulfilling one. If I would start a business again – which is not at all improbable – I would do my best to start it directly into the maturity stage.
You can find the remaining 6 ages of your business on these fine personal development and business blogs:
1) The Enthusiasm Business Age"¦Attraction Mind Maps
2) The Naivety Business Age"¦Small Biz Bee
3) The Attention Age … Advanced Life Skills
4) The Maturity Business Age"¦Steven Aitchison
5) The Expansion Business Age"¦Rat Race Trap
6) The Leadership Business Age"¦My Wife Quit Her Job
7) The Exhaustion Business Age"¦Learn This