The Four Stages of Business Growth

If you have been in the tire and auto repair business for any length of time, most likely you have gone through some stages of growth. Businesses have a life of their own. They start small and grow up, just like kids. Here’s a look at the four stage of business growth.

Stage one: excited. If you were a technician and started your own business, there is a start-up stage. It will last about five years. It is exciting. It is all you can do to go home at the end of the day. Weekends? No problem. Nights? Heck, eating dinner is optional. The company is growing and you are willing to do almost anything to keep it alive. If you get paid, all the better, but many months, all the money went right back into your company. Everything is a challenge, but that is what you wanted. Life is great and you are exhausted, but it is a good exhaustion. Employees come and go and you learn how to manage someone else. You seldom wonder why you started your business. You are so busy running the shop and doing everything yourself that you have no time to worry about anything. Oh, the newness of it all!

Stage two: serious. Your business is now somewhere between five and 10 years old. You might be married with kids. You have learned how to make money. You might have considered joining a trade association or hiring a coach. The business is starting to mature. It looks like a business, it smells like a business and you talk like a businessperson. You actually get paid every week! Your overhead is high, but making the payments can be done if you have a plan and work it. Things usually go well for another five years. Life is good and you have a positive outlook. You are getting into a routine. You are smarter, older, wiser and feel great about all the hard work. It is paying off and looks to get even better. 

Stage three: complacent. Your business is 10 to 15 years old. Your original dreams are fading as reality sets in. This is a time when the business has come into its own. Money is no longer a problem. You have procedures and policies. These were made based on your past problems and poor decisions. You have learned how to delegate, although you really can’t let go completely. The business is not your only interest. Life outside your store is really important to you. Problems within your business that take your time away from other parts of your life are starting to bother you. Resentment might be building. If you have done a reasonably good job the first 10 years, life can now start to offer more than a paycheck, but at a cost of your time you no longer want to pay. As you approach the 15-year mark, you may ask, “What do I do with the rest of my life?” You realize that you are no longer young and some tough decisions must be made. “What do I do with my business?” You most likely keep these thoughts to yourself. You may get more involved with your family or your community. You might buy another business and start over again, leaving someone else to run the shop. In some cases, you might resign yourself to this and say, “I guess this is the way it is going to be.” That is a bad road to go down. Your life can actually get depressing and you can feel lost. Owners in this position can be unhappy, angry, cynical people, but you can change that. There can be joy in your life. It is in this stage your decisions are more critical than any other. 

Stage four: change is coming. Some tire store owners never make it to this stage, but others do. Some owners get stuck in stage two or three, as mentioned earlier. When you can no longer put up with what owning a business demands of you, you may begin to complain. If this is true, you are probably having a business mid-life crisis. You may become rude and dismissive. This is not who you were 15 years ago, and rightly so, you may be angry at yourself. If your business is over 15 years old and you feel stuck, talk it over with someone who knows how to listen. As many businesses become more about profit and less about humanity, that negative culture will remove the drive to succeed. Your self-worth is not determined by whether or not you own a business. Is it time for a change? One last thing to remember: this cycle repeats itself every 15 years.

What stage are you — and your business — at?

About the Author

Craig Van Batenburg

Craig Van Batenburg is MTD's monthly EV Intelligence columnist and the owner of Van Batenburg's Garage Inc. dba Automotive Career Development Center, which provides training for facilities that service - or want to service - electric and hybrid vehicles. For more information, see or email Craig at [email protected].