What Phase Are You In?

Steve August
March 30, 2021
5 Rules for Rocket Ships
Ruthless Simplicity

Yesterday, I hosted some amazing Founders in my first ever Ruthlessly Simple Business Planning Boot Camp. It was a great day and amazing to see the group work, both individually and collaboratively, in creating Ruthless Clarity and Simplicity for their businesses.

As good as the day was, I may have enjoyed the process of creating the Boot Camp just as much. A big part of that enjoyment was taking ideas, observations, and techniques that have been bouncing around in my head or in individual coaching conversations, and getting them down on paper.

It’s said that you really haven’t figured something out until you can teach it to others. I found this trope to be true. As I navigated the process of creating the Boot Camp, I feel like I deepened and clarified my understanding of a number of key concepts.

One of the concepts that I think is especially valuable is the concept of Phases.

Everyone thinks a lot about business Stages. Your business may be in Pre-Seed, Seed, Growth or Series A/B/C. These are ways of describing specific stages in a businesses trajectory. It’s generally a one way trip through these stages.

But I think Founders should pay more attention to what Phase they are in.

Phases are constantly in progress and occur within any stage. There are three phases:

Learn - Can you do something once?
Optimize - Can you do something repeatably with sustainable economics?
Scale  - How big or fast can you go?

The Learn - Optimize - Scale sequence repeats at every Stage and for every function: getting customers, shipping product, hiring, planning and executing, etc.

Not recognizing which phase you are in can cost you, especially for Visionary Evangelist Type Founders.

For example, Visionary Evangelist Type Founders love novelty, learning about new things, and making big leaps.

But Optimizing is about going over and over the same thing and making incremental improvements to creating efficiencies and sustainable economics.

The Optimize Phase is not a Visionary Founder happy place, so they have a tendency to try to skip from Learn to Scale without doing the work of Optimizing.  

When they feel like Optimize is taking too long or not generating big leaps, they go back to Learn Phase and come up with a shiny new idea to try. This actually just resets the process, so the Optimize phase gets delayed and inevitably the Scale phase gets pushed out as well.  

As a Visionary Evangelist type, I’ve been guilty of this and my business has suffered for it.

But once you are aware of the Phases, you can develop the discipline and complement yourself with types who love optimization - and get on your way to scaling!

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