Growth Stages Operations Strategy

Stage 7 – Disequilibrium and chaos: Friend or foe?

Stage 7 (161-500 employees)

Ever heard the phrase: “You can capture a wild duck, but you can’t make a tame duck wild?”

At this stage of growth, with 161 to 500 employees, there’s a strong tendency for a leader to professionalize the company and inadvertently crush the entrepreneurial spirit that is necessary to keep your competitive edge.

As you grow and add layers of hierarchy and bureaucracy, it is harder to stay agile, to respond quickly to new opportunities. Decision-making is slower and the desire to gravitate toward safety can be overwhelming.

This is the last stage in the 7 Stages of Growth model, which focuses on small and medium-size businesses. After Stage 7, your company is entering the realm of bigger businesses. Stage 7 is called Visionary for a very specific reason. The leader of a Stage 7 company has to go back into the organization and try to instill an entrepreneurial spirit. Your job – along with sustaining and propagating the vision of the company – is to create a degree of disequilibrium and chaos within the organization. If this is not accomplished, those layers of bureaucracy will impede performance and growth.

Create a Culture of Growth

This isn’t something you can do if you haven’t created a culture that supports entrepreneurial endeavors. We’ve mentioned before that employees are employees because they appreciate that paycheck every two weeks.

Showing up one day and announcing that Jack will now become manager of sales, and Jill will become head of R&D is sure to backfire.

Managing through this stage of growth requires a leader that has recognized the core intelligence of the company and has taken measures to create a culture of collaboration and growth. A culture that isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit, step outside of their comfort zone. A culture that doesn’t fall back on that deadly mantra heard in so many conference rooms: We’ve tried that before.

This can be a reawakening for a leader who misses the fun of the chase and the chaos that was so much a part of their company back in Stage 1 and Stage 2. It’s a time to light the fires of inspiration and innovation in your company, being relentless in allowing mistakes in the pursuit of these new endeavors.

If some of these rules of the road for a Stage 7 company tend to mirror rules from earlier stages of growth, it’s not by accident.

Stage 7 Rules of the Road

Rule #1: Overhaul the business model to optimize direction and margins.

Challenge all assumptions regarding vision, mission, goals, objectives, and strategies of the company. Challenge all assumptions about the customer, the competition, the market and your company’s offerings. Reorganize/rewire the company’s resources to meet the new conclusions.

Rule #2: Get to know a little something about every employee.

Regularly walk through the company. Organize employee names and info by division/department into a CEO employee-data-management system. Contribute to the company newsletter an employee stories column.

Rule #3: Sell everyday.

Organize time to sell every day. Organize an effective sales follow up process. Utilize a contact-management system to track all communication with customers effectively.

Rule #4: Set up an enterprise management/leadership succession system.

Identify one to two new candidates for each leadership/management position. Identify the clear, comprehensive view of the scope of all management / leadership positions. Intentionally set in place a system to review the development of candidates for each level.

Rule #5: Generate, track and preserve cash.

Review company flash sheet and key indicators daily. Monitor progress to date with budget / cash flow system. Focus on meeting with customers and increasing both transaction value and frequency to build the top line revenue.


This article, derived from content created by FlashPoint!, is based on the 7 Stages of Growth concepts developed by the Origin Institute and James Fischer. It was contributed by Jacqueline Sousa, a certified Growth Curve Specialist and regional director of the Florida SBDC at FIU.

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