In 2020, we published our own take on the stages of business development. We coined them the “Stages of Ecommerce Maturity”. The seven levels of the business maturity scale has been used in many other businesses to help entrepreneurs self identify and understand where they may fall in scaling their business.
Here at Clearinity we use this scale to help translate the growth opportunities that await once an organization commits to implementing inventory management software and operations optimization processes. While this scale is most useful once you have taken our ecommerce maturity assessment, we have since been leveraging the stages of maturity in many other blogs and resources.
We believe the stages of maturity are so important because the maturity level a business is at guides your problems, the potential solutions, and the emotional tone your culture may have. In this article we want to revisit and redefine the stages, the problems they face, and what growth opportunities or solutions are available at those stages of maturity.
Stage 1- Germination
This stage of maturity can be affectionately referred to as the germination stage. You are busy breaking ground, and tending to the beginnings. At this level of maturity your business may lack a concrete north star in vision and processes. Like the start of a seed, your business needs constant attention and prioritization to keep growing. You may feel like an overworked gardener here at this stage.
Common Problems: Decision Fatigue, Prioritization of work, “You don’t know what you don’t know”, lack of long term vision.
Solutions: In this stage, Clearinity is here to help optimize your processes to make them sustainable long term through consulting. We want to help accelerate your growth through people, process and technology.
Cost of Opportunity: Without optimizing your processes, your growth later on will feel chaotic and risky. Additionally, you may overuse resources and end up spending more fixing issues later down the line.
Stage 2- Sprout
Once you have reached Stage 2, you may be in the sprout stage. Your business may have the beginning of infrastructure, you may have more people and more complex processes beginning. Long term vision is more of a priority but still unclear.
Common Problems: Resources from personnel to profits are tight! Often business owners have attempted some prioritization and inventory solutions but none have “stuck”- in fact, you feel STUCK. At this stage, you may still have the mindset that this business can operate as your secondary income.
Solutions: Clearinity has seen lots of stage two businesses in the last few years since the pandemic has started. We find the best solution here is to tackle inventory management and financials FIRST, then we get to dive into your people and process issues with deep consulting and support.
Cost Of Opportunity: Without clarity on your business, an organization may end up losing the business altogether by getting stuck at this stage. If you aren’t losing your business, you are losing your sanity day by day.
Stage 3 Businesses have been our bread and butter for quite some time now. We understand the challenges of this level of maturity extremely well and similarly to a stage 2 business, this stage takes a lot of grit and vision to keep scaling upwares. Saplings can start to bear fruit. Saplings can also survive their first winters. They are independent and can start to support a microcosm. Likewise your business is starting to see profit, and resilience.
Common Problems: At this stage, a business owner may feel like their hair is constantly on fire, and oscillating between overestimating or underestimating many areas of their business. In this stage other team members and executives may also start to seek out help.
Solutions: Solutions are dependent on the individual business owner and team. For many, technology implementation is the first and foremost priority to get aligned and refreshed. For some others, they may look at the change management process as a time to accelerate all systems of learning including people and processes. We often recommend coaching and implementation packages for this level of maturity.
Cost Of Opportunity: Without investing in some consulting and/or the correct technology fit, many business owners will continue to invest both time and money into poor solutions drawing them further away from effectively growing your business
Stage 4 Maturity is where a business starts to become established and is now in the growth stage. This level of maturity is becoming increasingly more and more frequent here at Clearinity as we see these businesses forced off their inventory management systems due to market consolidation or acquisitions.
Common Problems: Stage 4 often has been on some type of best of breed technology infrastructure. They seek the level of understanding and transparency from their data as they do from their people. Commonly they are dealing with upgrading systems and processes or they are struggling with deep people issues as a result of poor change management in the past.
Solutions: We help you sift through the processes you have already built, take a deep look at what is working and what is not. We then help you select a sustainable inventory management system for you and your business. At the end of implementation, we help promote healthy business processes, work with you on leadership skills, and teach you how to communicate effectively with your team as part of ongoing support or advisory services.
Cost Of Opportunity: Without upgrading your technology or sorting people problems, you may notice you still have customer service issues, you are still losing time to invest in other parts of your business and you are spending a lot of money on a system you “guessed” would work.
Stage 5 businesses are rare, and often mature in their processes. We love working with these teams when we have the opportunity. Stage 5 businesses often seek one to one advisory services and look for personalized consulting from an experienced executive. This is mostly because at this stage, many organizations are looking to scale into enterprise mode and truly are committed to the cost of this endeavor.
Common Problems: At this stage, a business and their team will have mastered multiple sales channels. They may lack some of the integration that really ties it together. As a business owner you may notice you have a team or several teams established but no overarching structure to unite them. Operations are a lot more complex than you originally thought or started with. Lastly, you are starting to consider your time vs money investment.
Clearinity Solutions: At this stage Clearinity understands the gravity and importance of the solution path presented. We often recommend these teams find advisory services such as our own or are seeking one-one consulting in addition to implementation.
Cost of Opportunity: Continuous-time hiring and rehiring team members to get a single job done and you may become stagnant in growth.
Stage 6 businesses are established and are faced with “wicked” problems. These problems often stem from poor structural development early, too much business development at one time, or are a result of growing pains in the team’s current understanding of evolving processes. These businesses have a clear long term vision and now are finding ways to increase funding for larger business development projects.
Common Problems: Cloud Inventory has failed you before but you may not have the funds to invest in a full ERP solution. At this stage, you have a mature team and are really seeking the right business relationships as well as the right solution.
Solutions: We believe mid market companies in the stage six area, are looking for holistic technology to unite their core departments and workflows. They are often seeking cloud based infrastructure solutions and that makes mid-market ERP’s a great solution for these companies.
Cost of Opportunity: Without a unified system, the business may continue to bleed money, your team will never reach their full potential because they are still operating as a dynamic team with no true standard processes.
Stage 7- Enterprise
Stage 7 is enterprise level maturity. These businesses have an exit strategy and may be actively working towards that.
Common Problems: You actually need an ERP. Your business now requires a system that offers full integration with high levels of customization. You may have outgrown all of Clearinity’s inventory management system solutions
Clearinity Solutions: After evaluating your business needs and wants we help connect you to the right partners to implement the right system as well as offer a plethora of resources around leadership, accounting, and documentation.
Cost of Opportunity: Without us you will not have the insurance that the ERP or Inventory Management System will work for you.