Each business will determine its own priorities, ingredients, and exact steps as it develops and grows. But within those variations, there remain four essential stages that a business leader must recognize and manage. 

Much like in Italian cooking. There are many ways to make a tomato sauce, but you will have to use certain base ingredients and perform certain essential steps. 

As you prepare to launch your business this year, track your progress within these four stages, and focus on the right priorities throughout. 

Plan

You have to at least know what you are making. 

Start with a brief business plan. Don’t worry about formality and presentation: this document is just for you. Its purpose is to focus your attention on why you are starting this business, how you expect to launch it, and where you believe it can go. 

Here’s the secret: all of this will change with time and growth. That’s ok. Start a good habit early: always think about what you want to do and plan each mini-stage. 

Launch

Go to market. 

Do it now. 

Not once your website is designed, or when you have the perfect headshot, or when your logo has gone through its 18th revision. 

Now. 

To paraphrase Nike: just do. 

Talk to your ideal clients, ask them what would attract them away from their current provider (of your service), and how much they would pay for improvements. Then sell to them. 

Manage

You do that a few times and then guess what: you have clients. You are managing a business. 

And here is why this stage is important: managing a business is a whole new set of jobs. 

Now you have to deliver your service to clients, while at the same time managing your invoicing and record-keeping, your continuous marketing and promotion, your product or service development, perhaps even employee training and experience, … 

Be deliberate about this shift to Management and be realistic about your time and resources for doing it all. 

Grow

After these three steps, everything is about growth. 

Growth in all areas of your business. Yes: new clients and new employees. Yes: also development from current and past clients, growth in learning, growth in management practices. 

The decisions you make in this stage must all be geared towards a growth outcome.