All living things have a life cycle, and so it is with a business entity. Just as in nature in which there are four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter), there are four seasons to a business.
Spring is the season of “birth”. Birth in business may be the start up of a new business or the acquisition of an existing business. In either case, it is the beginning of a new experience (adventure) for the business owner. It entails the development of business plans, marketing plans, acquisition of capital, establishing of new relationships (with vendors, customers, employees, and professionals such as attorneys, accountants, bankers, and insurance representatives), checking out competition, and determining the business’s niche in the market, to name just a few. It is an exhilarating and exciting time. It is a time of discovery.
As the Summer season arrives, the business owner starts to mature into the “running” of the business. The relationship building process continues with some relationships being nurtured and groomed, and some being discarded. This is the time when systems are being developed, implemented and refined. Finance continues to be an important factor with focus on developing adequate positive cash flow and profitability. It is a time of planting the seeds which will bring the fruits of business success in the seasons to come. The exhilaration and excitement of “being in business” business continues. Every day is a new adventure which brings new challenges and ads to the log of experience of the business owner.
By the Fall season, the business and business owner are now matured. The systems put in place during the summer season have been refined and are operating smoothly. The relationships built during the Spring and Summer are now well developed and are ones of high quality. The business is well entrenched in its market niche. Profitability and positive cash flow are well established. This is the season of enjoyment of the fruits of what has been planted in the previous seasons. It is also the season for reflection, as the wise business owner now realizes that the next season is Winter, and appropriate planning must now take place to accommodate that season.
As the leaves begin to fall from the trees in the fall season, harkening the arrival of Winter, so it is in the Winter season of the business. The business owner now must prepare for the eventual transition from the business. Although, the business owner still has the “love of the business” (just as love of life), he/she realizes that it is time to pass the torch. The energy present during the Spring and Summer seasons is no longer present. Possibly the focus, creativity and inventiveness of the business owner are not as strong as in previous seasons. The business entity has grown and matured, and requires new energy, new “sewing of seeds”. It is a bitter sweet time for the business owner, but nevertheless a time that requires recognition and action.
If the successful business is to live beyond its owner; it is the owner’s responsibility to plan for the transition to a new owner. This planning is as important as the initial business plan, and all of the systems that have been developed. A misstep at this point could be disastrous, but careful planning and implementation will ensure the continued success of the business. Just as the proud father “hands over” his daughter at her wedding, so it is that the owner “hands over” the reins of the business to another who will revel in the “cycles” yet to come.
The point of this parable is that a business is a vibrant, “living” entity. It, just as all living things, has a cycle of life. The prudent business owner recognizes the “seasons of the business”, and plans for them at the outset of entering into business. Proper planning for each season at the beginning will enhance the enjoyment and success of the business owner throughout the life of the business.
If we as business owners do not plan for the future, we can be assured that there will not be a bright future. As prudent business owners, we need to begin with the end in mind, and recognize the milestones of the seasons in our business. If we have, at the start, the completion of the cycle in our mind’s eye, the business will be everlasting- the greatest legacy a business owner could hope for. The future will indeed be bright and one that holds rich rewards.