Do you own your business, or does your business own you?

Have you built a business or a job?

What would happen if you needed to take a few weeks off? Would things continue to move along or would your business implode?

Look, most small business owners…almost 90{cd266c1509fca34f59dc93da7daf12a6ee52c6401aabb2126e757d9de7c223fc} according to the U.S. Census Bureau…are essentially overworked employees of the business they’ve created.

Think about that – almost 90{cd266c1509fca34f59dc93da7daf12a6ee52c6401aabb2126e757d9de7c223fc}. Scary. With this in mind, I’ve developed a way of viewing your business and the role you play in it. For most of our businesses, they fall into one of these stages…

Stage One – The Start Up

If you’re just starting out, you’re working long hours, doing everything, often feeling like you’re scrambling and still not even making a dent on your ‘to do’ list. You’re ‘hustling’ in hopes of building a business that turns the corner and becomes what I’ve coined ‘The Ideal Business.’

Maybe you’re paying yourself something, but you’re likely not earning what you’d earn by working this long and hard in a typical job. We’ve all been here, and if you’re in your first 12 months of business, it’s normal and even to be expected.

But if you’re 5, 7 or 10 years in and your still here – well, we’ve got some work to do.

Stage Two – Stable & Exhausting

Your business is profitable and you’re past the anxiety of wondering how you’ll pay the bills next month – as long as you’re present every day to keep things going. You’ve likely gotten some help, maybe another person or two to play a ‘technician’ role, and perhaps even some administrative assistance, but they’re there to do just that:


They’re not leading any area of the business or shouldering much of the responsibility. They essentially are just there to offload a few things since there is no more of you to go around, but more clients, and more obligations, keep coming.

This is where most small business owners settle in. They can’t take their foot off the gas because everything runs through them – and if they slow down, it all ends.

So, while it’s financially stable, it’s exhausting.

Sure, if this owner is putting some money away and eventually they’ll be able to retire, but the thought of taking more days off, coaching their kids little league teams and not feeling like they’re constantly ‘on call’ feel pretty far away.

Stage Three – Successful & Fun

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This is the stage that I prefer at this stage of my professional life. A business that is profitable and successful – yet allows me to play the role that I want to play.

This level of business has simple, effective systems allowing growth to happen without really demanding more of the owner and it allows the owner to create their role around their strengths.

Here, the owner can have plenty of flexibility, but they’re still heavily involved. They drive the vision and do the things that have the most impact or offer the most satisfaction to them.

Here, you still play some of that ‘technician’ role if you want to (I do), not because you have to.

When I look at most entrepreneurial businesses I admire, this is the level that they fit into.

Stage Four – Owner Independent

This is a business that runs without needing you on a constant basis. Your team and your systems are in place and working well. Working ‘in’ the business is a choice, not an obligation.

It might be a franchised type of business with several location and a ‘district manager’ type of team member handling the day to day or it could be a practice with several people playing the revenue driving roles that you used to play.

Now your margins may drop a bit since you’re paying more people and doing less of the day-to-day yourself, but it creates the option to keep scaling without worrying that you’re the limiting factor.

And this type of business is certainly more salable than a business built entirely around you.

In truth, so many of the business owners I see get stuck at Stage One. They’re still functioning like a start up 6 or 7 years in. Then, the business owners that have started to embrace marketing and selling often stall out at level two. They grow to a point that they don’t know how to get past.They’re earning some personal income (finally) and don’t know how to evolve their role, compensate help and not take a big hit financially. A much smaller percentage does what it takes to get to stage three or stage four, even though that’s the business they likely envisioned when they originally started.

Take a few minutes and give some thought to where your business currently sits and where would you like it to go. **Make this a pull quote**

Where will you be able to have the impact that you want to have, earn the income you want to (and deserve to earn as an entrepreneur) and still enjoy a lifestyle that is rewarding?

And if you’re not at the level you want to be, rather than getting frustrated, simply decide to change it.

About the Author

Pat Rigsby

Pat Rigsby is a Business Coach who helps entrepreneurs and Thoughtleaders® build the business and success that they want. He’s built over 25 different businesses including two Entrepreneur Franchise 500 Award Winning franchises and a 3X INC 5000 company as well as authoring or co-authoring 11 different Best-Selling books. Pat can be reached at [email protected].