We work each day with a variety of entrepreneurs and, no matter their age, experience level or type of business, we find they all fall into one of five categories, depending upon the stage of business life cycle they're navigating.
Sure, we hate to generalize--and everyone's situation is unique and requires a personalized game plan--but there are certain universal trends in the business and financing world.
We've developed the five personas that we see most often.
First up is The Crisis Manager, who is facing a code red situation. At some point, nearly everyone finds themselves in this position.
This entrepreneur is dealing with a critical event that could kill their business. Maybe it's something like the loss of a key supplier or a sudden decline in revenues. Whatever the case, action is needed quickly.
The Crisis Manager typically needs a bit of financial relief. Tactics such as debt restructuring, changing the type of finance or even changing the lender entirely help provide breathing room.
Then there's what we call The Plateaued, a/k/a the would-be expander.
These entrepreneurs aren't failing at this stage, but they aren't exactly setting the world on fire, either. Whether the management team is suspect or there's just a lack of growth, these companies seem to be running in place and are not sure how to grow.
Our job with these wanna bes is to give them direction. Often, that means pointing them toward the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which has worked with these kinds of entrepreneurs before. The agency also backs numerous affordable loan programs, which might be enough to get The Stuck out of the Waffle House and into a more proactive mode.
A happy entrepreneur is what we call The Contented--the person who wants to milk the cow.
Things are going well: Business is booming (or at least is strong and steady), and their finances are in good shape.
Still, there are plenty of things this entrepreneur can be doing. For example, securing a line of credit when it isn't immediately needed one is the best way to get a good rate and prepare for potential pitfalls ahead. When the pressure's off, it's also a good time to do things such as developing a succession plan.
The cousin of The Contented is The Grower, who may also be known as The Expander.
Here we have an entrepreneur who is succeeding, but could still take performance to the next level. That could mean adding a production line, developing new products, expanding facilities or one of dozens of other positive steps.
The Grower likely is a prime candidate for an SBA loan or perhaps asset-specific financing is in order instead of general cash flow financing. Thankfully, there are options galore here.
Finally, there's The Exiter, who may sound like a superhero, but is really just someone looking to maximize the process of cashing out.
That sounds easy, but it actually can be both complicated and time consuming, as the clean-up process should begin three years before the actual sale. Choosing the right advisor is crucial and it's equally important to complete tasks such as shifting debt off the balance sheet.
It's the little things that make a difference and will determine how much of premium The Exiter walks away with when all is said and done.
In summary, there may be five main stages of entrepreneurship we see, but they all require vastly different approaches; even those must be fine tuned to tackle the unique circumstances with any business.
Stay tuned, as we dive further into each scenario over the next several weeks.