There are six stages that lead to a seven-figure business. MyOutDesk was built on the principles of this notion, by our CEO Daniel Ramsey. He created this roadmap years ago and has adhered to it ever since, and to great success. In this article, we’re going to go over what exactly each of the six stages is, and encourage you to find your place on the roadmap. Then you’ll look at the steps directly behind you and the next step ahead, and confirm that this is the work you need to do. It’s important to find ways to understand where everyone fits, why they fit there, and where you fit among them. That’s why I believe this guide and infographic are invaluable to anyone trying to grow their business, big or small.
The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is that there isn’t a known path. And the moment you learn something, you are instantly elevated into another level of the “game of business”. Imagine the moment you get comfortable with the game, you elevate to another level and the rules are different and the competition is more difficult. This is when a lot of “gamers” will seek out a guide to help them progress. Well, for business owners like yourself, this is that guide. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of which stage your business is at. And how to level up to the next stage! Let’s get started!
This graphic is a handy way to understand the different stages of business at a glance. Right click and save it! Because once you’ve read the more in-depth analysis below, you’ll want to share this with others eventually. And what better way than to send them a quick infographic to summarize something you already know all about?
Table of contents
“I Do It”
Every two stages of this six-stage model fit into a category that reflects how the bulk of your work is done. When your business is in its infancy you are going to be doing a lot of the work yourself, of course. The first category is the “I do it” category and is denoted specifically by learning. In the beginning, you are learning the market, your client’s preferences, how to charge, and what’s required to win. This is where Stages 1 and 2 reside; the “I do it” category. Both are solo stages, hence the name.
Stage 1: Micro Business
This is where you find new and existing business owners that are seeking consistency and growth. They’re just getting started, but already they’re committed to finding a better way of solving a problem. Being a successful, value-added business professional is their career goal. The micro business is a solo operation with one person behind the wheel. The challenge of this stage is that you have to wear all of the hats. The beauty of this stage is that typically you’re highly compensated for your time and you can move through situations without the friction of other people in your business. Their gross revenue is around $0-60K. The challenges this solo operation typically faces are very different from the later stages. Understanding how money is made in your new venture and exactly how to spend that money to make more money is the first and most obvious challenge. But your revenue is followed closely by more personal challenges since it’s just you running the operation.
Stage 1 Challenges
As the sole employee of a microbusiness startup, most challenges you face will be personal to you. Things like your knowledge of the market, keeping yourself accountable, keeping yourself motivated, learning effective sales skills, coming up with a strategy, and honing those people skills. And the overarching challenge is simply your mindset. How you approach this journey mentally plays a major role in the success and failures every entrepreneur experiences at this early stage. It can be easy to succumb to your own doubts and fears at this stage, which is why mentality is so important here.
Stage 1 Success
A stage 1 business owner knows they’ve “made it” when they obtain certain realizations. You’ll notice one day that you’ve successfully tapped into your own sphere of influence. You’ve established your expertise and knowledge of your product and the market it serves; those are your core drivers. Conquering stage one feels like peace of mind because at that point you should have the clarity and mindset necessary to be successful in your specific business. You’re still adrift at sea among giants, but you’re not in your head about it anymore. You’re confident that you’re still headed in the right direction because you’re making the right decisions.
How To Level Up
To advance your business onto stage two, stay focused on those core drivers; your expertise and knowledge. Here you’re in market, research, and education mode. There can be a lot of fear and uncertainty in this stage, so you have to overcome that noise before you can graduate to the next stage. Leverage what you know about the product you provide and the market you serve it to, in order to convey your added value. If you hope to make it past stage one then you need to establish yourself as an expert, as a trusted and reputable provider of whatever product or service you offer. You can do so by tapping into your customer base and finding out what they like about you over the other guys and highlighting that to potential customers. Stay on top of the market you serve and offer added value that the other guys aren’t. Surprise and delight!
Stage 2: Entrepreneur
The second stage is still under the “I do it” category, and it’s the professional entrepreneur. Similar to the micro business model that’s also run by one person, except this stage has mastered the solo act. They’re comfortable and confident with their business strategy and direction but are seeking something more rewarding. They are pursuing a true career with sustainable growth, and overall better quality of life. Think of them less as the underdog now, and more so as the lone wolf. Their gross revenue is about $60-105K. They’ve just barely hit the 6-figure mark.
Stage 2 Challenges
The challenges facing a stage two business are mostly the same as stage one faces. Except for things like knowledge of the business and its market, personal accountability, and motivation. Those things are typically overcome by a business coming out of stage one, as they’ve learned their industry thoroughly, often through trial and error. They’ve also learned to self-motivate and hold themselves accountable, likely encouraged by the taste of success they’ve had so far. You’re no longer at the mercy of outside forces, you’re now in control of where you’re headed. You may be trudging along slowly, occasionally feeling stuck, but you have the experience and confidence to push on. You have your sights set on what lays ahead and that’s where you’re going.
Stage 2 Success
The “I’ve made it” for stage 2 comes from the realization that you can successfully articulate your differentiated value proposition. You can convey this expertise and knowledge of your product and its value, to the very marketplace you serve. Making it easier to set appointments and win new business with relative ease. Your core drivers at this stage are your people skills and your sales skills. Both of which you’ve honed to near perfection, and use to leverage your outbound efforts. Confidence is the name of the game for a stage two entrepreneur.
How To Level Up
To advance your business onto stage three you need to remember those core drivers; people skills and sales skills. The two are not the same! By establishing strong people skills, you can open the door for more leads. Remember the human, appeal to their pain points by offering solutions, empathize with their struggles, and share your own story. Give them something they can relate to. Then, once they’re a warm lead, turn on the sales skills. You have to be able to convey the value of your product and what differentiates it from the competition. It’s not all about the customer though; to conquer this stage and move up you must be good at the b2b side as well. Build healthy relationships with vendors, and establish ongoing partnerships with 3rd party technology and marketing. Learning how to consistently get what you want and need through other people is key to leveling up to the next stage.
“We do it”
The second category of this roadmap contains stages three and four. We refer to it as the “We do it” category because these stages are when you’re on a team. You’re no long roughing it on your own, desperate to break through into the realm of success. And you’re no longer some cowboy running it all yourself. You’ve passed the six-figure revenue and are now working as a team to stay in that revenue range, while gradually increasing it too. In these next two stages, you’re still getting your hands dirty, but you’re not going at it alone anymore.
Stage 3: Managing Leader
At stage three you’re bringing on help from those equipped to support your efforts, rather than doing it all yourself. As a managing leader in this stage, you’re a business professional, and you’re committed to doing the work required to establish your eventual independence and ongoing success. Here you’re working on the business just as much as in the business. It can often feel like ripping a person in two, so be prepared to be stretched thin. You likely have 1-2 employees under you at this stage, but they’ll require your newfound leadership to best support you. These employees you’ve added feel more like partners in your mission, and as such, they should be familiar with your vision and confident in your ability to reach it. A stage 3 business has a gross revenue of about $105-330K. You’re learning the art of lead generation now. Things are going well for them as they hover comfortably in that early 6-figure range, but they’re still a ways from million-dollar revenue. The core drivers at this stage are your lead generation success, and the leverage you have to achieve your goals.
Stage 3 Challenges
Once you’ve earned the title of Managing Leader at stage three, your challenges become a bit more complex. You’ve achieved great things already, but now you’re trying to keep them going in an efficient manner. Things like your revenue and the quality of lead generation need to be healthy and consistent. At this stage you’re not going at it alone anymore, so you may struggle with time management. Picking what your team should own versus what you should personally focus on may involve some trial and error as you get used to your new processes. This includes your management of the people you now have on your side. With a small team trying to execute in a big way, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks or get kicked down the road. Holding everyone, including yourself, accountable is imperative at this stage. As is establishing effective systems and processes. Find the right software and tools, create a process that works, and stick to it. New hires that inevitably join the team will need to not only know what to do but why they are doing it.
Stage 3 Success
At this stage, you’ll know how successful you are when you review your monthly revenue. If you’re generating a consistent cash flow that is highly profitable, you’re solid. You should have essentially mastered your management of dollar productive activities and the people who run them, by now. One way of looking at it is, that at this stage you should be able to comfortably continue at this level of success indefinitely with low stress. It’s smooth sailing for you at stage three. But only if you’re aspirations have leveled out. Which they haven’t if you’re aiming for that seven-figure revenue. So even though things are going smoothly right now and you feel like you’ve gotten a hang of your small but successful team, you should still be punching up at any opportunity.
How to Level Up
Your core drivers at stage three are your lead generation, and whatever leverage you hold. These will be your keys to advancing your business onto stage four. As you achieve a steady flow of lead generation, your team will be able to leverage what makes your product and your customer experience so great to close those deals. So right now it’s imperative that your lead generation be steady and healthy, and your sales team has enough ammo to really seal the deal. Do you offer 24/7 tech support, and the other competition doesn’t? Make that very known. Use examples of how the customer could be in a bind if something inevitably goes wrong under the other business, and how it would never be an issue with yours. If your marketing is on point then the leads should be coming in with more questions than answers. That’s when the sales team can leverage their knowledge to close all of those incoming deals efficiently.
Stage 4: Business Owner
The last stage under the “We do it” category is referred to as the Business Owner. This is where you’ve become a truly successful business-owning professional. You still remain committed to getting the most out of your choice to have an independent business of your own, by continuing to build your team. A stage four business owner is competent with leveraging their own time and the time of their team, along with all relevant finances, to get the greatest return for their efforts. They typically have 3-8 employees and at stage four they are earning $330K-$1M. That’s right; a top producing stage four business could already be at 7-figures, but just barely. There’s still work to be done to go far enough into the 7-figure range that you can comfortably stay there, but you’re close now.
Stage 4 Challenges
Stage four is where the challenges begin to match your revenue, in that they’ve continued to grow and become more complex. Making the right hiring decisions, and efficiently delegating work are pain points that need to be handled regularly. Building the right team is still of the utmost importance here, as you’re still building the foundation of the people that will hopefully stick with your vision for years to come. Don’t poison the well, so to speak. Marketing also becomes very important here, as you struggle to attract and not chase. Stage four needs to stand out in the competition and portray enough value to improve your leads with less effort to find them. You are also looking for ways to diversify your revenue streams, so as to expand and make your company more future-proof. Lastly, with all of this success and potentially a million in revenue, it’ll be hard to successfully manage a healthy work/life balance. Don’t get caught up in the rat race, learn when to step back and let your trusted team keep things moving while you enjoy this life you’ve made for yourself.
Stage 4 Success
Stage four knows they’ve hit a successful chapter of their business once they’ve shifted from chasing leads to attracting them. The work you do speaks for itself in some cases, and thus gets the attention of people looking at you to solve a problem for them, or just sell them the product they want. At this stage, your existing customers will be doing some of the marketing for you, by spreading the word. You’ve amassed good reviews, and a positive reputation in your community and your market. Word of mouth is its own free advertising for a stage four that’s doing things right. You also have at least five predictable revenue pillars in your business, with key hires placed appropriately to manage them. The core drivers here are the systems you have in place(software, teams, leadership, vendors, etc) and your time management skills.
How to Level Up
Advancing onto stage five of course relies on those core drivers we mentioned; systems and time management. You can have the best product around, generating a constant flow of warm leads; but none of that will matter if you don’t have the systems in place to manage it all. And on top of that, the time to build it all and maintain it. That doesn’t mean staying late every night and working your weekends, however. The more you suffer to do your job, the more your job will suffer. Once you’ve mastered your own time management, and are able to implement and oversee effective and efficient processes(ones that save time and money), you’ll be well on your way to stage five.
“They Do It”
Finally, we enter the third and final category, “They Do It”. As you can imagine, we call it that because this is where more of your daily duties are shared with other team members. It’s these two final levels of business ownership where you as the leader are now doing more managing than you ever have. You’re not as involved in the daily grind, the nitty gritty, or the frontlines of customer service. You’re beginning to focus more on the higher level, big dollar-producing moves that only upper management should be focused on. While delegating more to your trusted team, and overseeing the progress and results.
Stage 5: The CEO
You’ve now entered the fifth stage, referred to simply as “The CEO”. Stages five, and six falls under the “they do it” category because it is here that businesses rely much less on the actions of the owner. Their time on the front lines, in the trenches, is behind them for the most part. Of course, it’s always encouraged that a CEO still get their hands dirty sometimes, as that’s part of connecting with your people and instilling confidence and respect. But the ultimate goal for any business owner, besides making tons of money, is to eventually become self-driving. That’s why the CEO is committed to leading and building a permanent business. One that delivers a consistent value-added client experience, provides sustainable long-term success, and overall increases their quality of life. It is at this stage that a business is making at least a million, as the revenue for stage five is $1M-2.5M, with a team of 9-11 professionals.
Stage 5 Challenges
The name of the game at stage five is “conquering the chaos”. When your business is this big and you’re more hands-off, most of your biggest challenges will be regarding the people you’ve selected to run it. At times it will feel chaotic and like you can’t be everywhere at once. You’ll have to give up the control freak in you and trust that the processes you have in place, and the people you’ve selected to operate them, can execute them on their own. A stage five business can live or die on its leadership, so selecting the right people to manage your teams is imperative. Just like managing your public relations; it will be a challenge to find your company voice and how to make it consistent across different platforms. Establishing your brand in a client community, as well as your internal culture, won’t be easy. But successfully juggling all of these is the mark of a business that’s on its way to stage six.
Stage 5 Success
You’re almost to the top of the food chain. You’ve built a business that has a clearly articulated vision, both for your employees and the community you serve. You’ve recruited the right kind of leaders to share your vision and delegate duties appropriately to support it across departments. Everyone at your business is aligned with your core values and uses them to hold each other accountable. Just like you have from the very start. Your systems and processes run like a well-oiled machine that can operate with or without your involvement. The client experience is in good hands, as goals and objectives are set and achieved daily, weekly, and monthly. All of this points directly to your two core drivers in this stage; your strategy and your leadership.
How to Level Up
You’re almost to the final stage six. To cross that line with your business you’ve got to keep those two core drivers in mind; strategy and leadership. Now that you’re in the final stages of this business model, all of those employees will be looking to you for high-quality leadership. Remember, you’re not stepping away just because you’ve got more help now. You should still be heavily involved; in measuring and calculating. You just won’t be getting your hands quite as dirty on the frontlines as you used to. Since you’re in the “they do it” stages by now, it’s important that you make the right leadership decisions. This is so that the people operating the day-to-day work stay motivated and confident. Properly delegate tasks to the right people, check in on them regularly, foster a positive workplace culture, and keep your eye on the prize. The strategy you’ve adopted by stage five should be so fine-tuned by the lessons you’ve learned, that it’s evergreen now. Step away, and trust that your business is a machine fueled by experience, passion, and innovation.
Stage 6: Visionary Leader
This is the final stage of the “they do it” category, and of the entire Six Stages to a Seven Figures Business roadmap. The person behind a stage six business is a world-class professional, who’s met and exceeded their initial income and success goals. Yet they continue to seek new challenges and opportunities, in an effort to improve all areas of the business and their life. The company runs efficiently and effectively completely on its own, under the guidance of a proven team of leaders running their respective teams. But keep in mind, that you still aren’t fully stepping away from everything. It’s just a different kind of work for you, now. This stage has 12 or more employees and generates $2.5M+ annually. This is when you start offering 401k’s, establish multiple departments with different leadership, and executives to oversee those depts. You should have at least 1-2 “lifers” by now; employees with a strong understanding of your vision and a dedication to see it through. At this final stage, you’ve built a nearly self-sufficient company that can provide wealth and prosperity for generations to come, under your delicate guidance.
Stage 6 Challenges
The challenges that face stage six aren’t much different from those of stage five. Maintaining a consistently successful business model and the desired profitability will always be a challenge. As will be maintaining a healthy client community, fueled by reliable leadership aligned with your company vision. Leadership is reading the room. You should be recognizing when the people working for you are crushing it, and when something has them distracted. And then act appropriately in either case. If your employees truly believe in your vision and feel connected to its success, they will be your biggest advocates. The positive and productive workplace culture you cultivate will show in your product, your marketing, and your community. It won’t ever be easy to keep all of these perfectly balanced, but with the success and establishment that comes with stage six, you have the time and resources to achieve it.
Stage 6 Success
A business owner in this final stage will know they’d made it because they have very little involvement in the day-to-day operations. And yet, it continues to generate goal-achieving profits as a debt-free business. The CEO even collects a salary from the profits of this business; finally getting paid handsomely to watch their creation thrive. At this final stage, you should understand your financial and business model clearly. Clearly enough that you can articulate it to the people running the daily business with ease and confidence. The final, and persistent core drivers for a stage six business should be your vision, and the stability to reach it.
There you have it; the Daniel Ramsey “Six Stages to a Seven Figure Business” roadmap. After taking it all in, which stage does your business fit into? Did you notice you’re experiencing the same struggles? Or perhaps this guide helped you realize that you have in fact made it and that it’s time to think about the next stage. Of course, there will always be exceptions and gray areas, this may not be a one-size-fits-all guide. But it should at the least provide you with a good idea of where your business stands among the rest. As well as give you a bit of insight into what you should and shouldn’t be focusing on.
In our experience at MyOutDesk, we’ve found that businesses benefit from examining this guide in conjunction with employing one or more of our virtual assistants. Because outsourcing specific tasks that can be done remotely helps businesses save so much time and money. And the more time and money you have to spare, the easier it is to step back and look at your business model to see what’s working and what isn’t. Not to mention the relocation of resources benefit that comes with having more time and money. So if you have any questions about this roadmap or our virtual professional services, please use the link below to request a Q&A session with one of our experts. No obligations, no pressure; just your questions and our answers.
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