The Afro Coach Operations Agency

Surviving the Survival Stage of Small Business Growth

Whether you are a done-for-you online service provider, an agency, or a six-figure coach – all businesses undergo similar growth patterns. Your business might have different organizational structures, offers, or management styles; but EVERY business will start from $0 and make its way to a sustainable income.

As I said in this blog, considering the nature, characteristics, and problems of businesses – there are 5 stages of business growth, the existence stage, the survival stage, the success stage, the take-off stage, and the resource maturity stage.

For founders, CEOs, agency owners, and even managers, being familiar with structure and systems in these stages can help in

  • Recognizing the difficulties their business is currently facing

  • Anticipating the key requirements at various points

  • Assessing how one’s business may be affected by current and future government regulations and policies.

  • Honing in specifically on where one needs support to move into the next stage

Today, let’s take a look at how you can survive the ‘survival’ stage, i.e. the second stage of business growth.

What does it mean to be in the survival stage of business growth?

Once you have gone through the start-up stage, your business starts to find its footing proving itself to be a viable brand. At this point, you would have:

  • Found a market for your services and offers
  • Acquired customers

Which then lands you into this phase of business growth; also known as the survival stage.

The primary focus at this stage is taking steps to move from mere existence to the relationship between revenues and expenses. You know your offer is viable; now it’s about consistently keeping money coming into your business.

Now I want to keep it real; many businesses do not make it past this stage. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), roughly 80% of small businesses fail in their first year due to inadequate cash flow or high cash use, poor strategic & systematic management of the business, and trading losses.

My goal with this article is to help you beat that statistic!

Factors affecting the growth in this business stage

When you are in the survival stage, it is important to note that growth is paramount in order to move to the next phase of your business.

There are several moving pieces that you are juggling at the moment, but the main questions that you’ll want to answer in this stage are:

  • Can we produce enough money in the short term to break even and pay for the upkeep or replacement of our capital assets as they become worn out?

  • Can we, at the very least, produce enough cash flow to maintain our operations and fund development to a scale that, given our industry and market niche, is sufficiently significant to create a profit from our assets and labor?

Here the primary responsibility lies solely with you.

You act both as the business owner who makes crucial decisions with regards to the business, as well as the manager who ensures proper execution of tasks, are taking place. You might not have a strategic operational framework to support you but your own grit and willpower to keep things running.

Now may be the time they start thinking about the right time to invest automate or delegate business systems for hiring procedures, marketing strategies, etc. Additionally, some businesses may still be functioning with little to no formal planning and with the owner’s vision and objectives firmly STAYING in the owner’s head.


Surviving the Survival Stage

Now, if you’ve been nodding along with the above and thinking, “YEP this is where I’m at”, here are a few tactics you can use to navigate through and evolve from this stage:

  1. Don’t ignore your research – No matter how ground-breaking you think your small business would be, without thorough research, you won’t know what the market is really asking for. Pay attention to what your current clients are asking for, and what your competitors are offering to see how you might improve.

  2. Define what you need guidance on- In this stage, business owners like you are willing to grow in some way or the other. You end up looking for any and all advice, however as online business owners it’s our job to know where we need support, and what guidance can best support that. Not all online information may be trusted. The finest advice is provided by a person who has years of expertise working on a variety of business issues across numerous industries.

  3. Get organized and define your growth plan – It’s important to get super organized and define a clear plan in place for the short-term and long-term future of the business. This should include goals, milestones, and a roadmap for achieving them. Regular review and adjustment of the plan can help ensure that the business stays on track and is prepared for any challenges that may arise.

  4. Manage your costs – Finances can be a major factor in the survival of a small business.  You don’t need the latest and greatest CRM tools, apps, etc for growing out of this stage. Be intentional about where you need to invest.  Review those subscriptions, evaluate your team supporting you, etc, and make appropriate decisions based on what your business needs to survive.

  5. Strengthen up your systems and operations – Whether it’s through marketing, R&D, or some other means, you should be focussed on strengthening up the systems and operations in your business to bring the best possible results with limited resources. It will guarantee that your business is continually expanding and getting better. The right systems can help automate and streamline your business operations, reducing the need for manual work and freeing up time and resources. This could include things like project management tools, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and accounting software.


Overall, having the right business operations and systems in place is essential for ensuring the long-term success of any business, especially during the survival stage. By streamlining processes, investing in the right systems, building the right team, and staying focused on clear communication and planning, you can position your business for continued growth and success.

Being aware of the stage of business growth helps you to assess your business for its shortcomings and help you prepare for the survival and flourishment of your business through the coming stages.

If you want to have a clear understanding of which stage your business is going through, click here and take this quick quiz to find out what support you need in business.

I’m Elisabeth—
I live in Melbourne, Australia, but I’m from the States (Washingtonian through and through). I’m a cat-mom, wifey, and in love with a good workflow; it gives me that warm, fuzzy, Christmastime feeling. My goal is to help hard-working service providers stop having to choose between creativity and productivity to build a successful, sustainable business.

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