Charting the 7 Stages of Business Growth

Those who visit our blog semi-regularly probably know that Torrent’s growth has been inspired by a number of resources, from

5 min. read

Those who visit our blog semi-regularly probably know that Torrent’s growth has been inspired by a number of resources, from books to frameworks and assessments. I’m just one of more than 80 employees here, but I think it’s fair to say we all value the knowledge of those who have found success and been willing to share their road maps, so to speak. When fears of publishing “company secrets” don’t prevent leaders from telling their stories, others are able to benefit. For those looking to use business as a way to make a meaningful difference in the world, that’s a wonderful thing.

Given that, I thought it be worth sharing another framework that has helped our company manage the transition from fledgling startup to a company with five offices in two different countries — a framework that you might not know about. It’s called the Stages of Growth Matrix, and it was developed by TTI Success Insights, an organization that provides research-based tools meant to aid with talent management. Based on the examination and analysis of hundreds of different companies, the Stages of Growth Matrix delineates the specific challenges and priorities organizations will need to address as they hire more and more employees.

Below, we’ll cover the highlights from each stage of growth. Then, in subsequent posts, we’ll discuss some of the ways we conquered key challenges at each stage. Our goal with this series? To help your company by sharing a little knowledge.


The 7 Stages of Growth

#1: Start-Up

The aptly named Start-Up stage represents the first days of a business, when it has between 1-10 employees — organizational infancy, essentially. During this stage, leadership is probably feeling pretty overwhelmed, possibly even losing sleep over the consistent struggle to earn enough to keep the business running.

The “primary challenges” (TTI’s phrase) of a Start-Up organization, then, probably come as no surprise: Cash flow, limited capital, a lack of sales. When you’re new, you need to figure out how to make money, plain and simple. For each stage of the matrix, TTI ranks three key focus areas — profit, people and process — and profit is the number one focus for Start-Up organizations (again, probably not so surprising).

#2: Ramp-Up

Organizations with 11-19 employees are in the Ramp-Up stage, which features some of the same challenges as its predecessor, including cash flow and limited capital. As such, a company’s main focus should remain the same as it grows out of the Start-Up stage: Profit.

However, other new challenges will also likely arise here, including the need to hire quality staff. For Start-Ups, finding the first few employees often involves hiring friends and current contacts — known entities. But that only works for so long. As a company moves into the Ramp-Up stage, they’ll need to develop effective ways to source, hire and onboard new team members.

#3: Delegation

The Delegation stage (20-34 employees) is pretty well explained by its name — it’s when leadership must cede certain key responsibilities to other employees. After all, the CEO can do everything for only so long.

But with this handing off of the baton comes new challenges: Earning staff buy-in, operating without defined core values, growing pains that result from rapid change. This is the stage when a company starts to become a collective project, after all, and not just the vision of one or two individuals. Teams have to figure out the best ways to communicate and work together to decide the future direction of the company. No easy task.

#4: Professional

First came profit, then people. When an organization reaches the professional stage (35-57 employees), it comes time to focus primarily on processes. It makes sense, right? You’ve figured out how to build a team, and now it’s time to learn how that team can be deployed most effectively.

Common problems in this stage include weak project management, difficulty diagnosing problems and the beginning of employee turnover. If those sound like tough ones to solve, well, I won’t disagree. You’ll need a combination of powerful technology platforms and expertise in using them. As such, this is when it might make sense to bring in a business consultant.

#5: Integration

The integration stage (58-95 employees) is where Torrent currently finds itself — a time when all aspects of the business must start to coalesce. Common challenges include the expansion of sales, the cost of lost expertise and difficulty training an ever growing staff. Definitely things we’ve wrestled with.

TTI ranks profit as the number one focus area for this stage of business growth, but I think it’s fair to say that people and processes shouldn’t be far behind. When an organization reaches this size, and when everything starts to come together, a problem in any one area will necessarily cause problems in the other two.

#6: Strategic

Okay, you’ve integrated the core aspects of your business, driving further growth. What comes next? Well, the Strategic stage (96-160 employees). At this point, a company’s focus should be squarely on its people and the processes devoted to sourcing candidates and onboarding new hires. As the need for new employees begins to expand exponentially, it will be imperative that the organization can actually fill more and more new roles with quality talent — and then keep that talent around.

#7: Visionary

Welcome to the Visionary stage (161-500 employees) — and congratulations! If your company has made it this far, you’ve done a lot of things right. You’ve figured out how to make money (no easy feat), honed your processes and learned how to build an amazing team. But that doesn’t mean there are no more challenges ahead. As your organization continues to grow, you’ll need to compete at higher and higher levels, which will likely involve differentiating your products/services, getting to market faster and responding to a quickly changing business landscape.

It’s now that leadership must recognize the importance of communicating their vision for the future to the entire company. That way, everybody will be able to work together and push forward to the same horizon.

Check back in the coming weeks for more detailed posts on each stage of growth. But in the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions — we’d love to chat!