The Stages of Business Growth For Coaches

April 23, 2020

I’m Kim.
I’m an M.D.-turned-entrepreneur and I’m dedicated to helping you build your dream career + lifestyle. Welcome to my blog, where I write (and podcast) about wellness, business + success!
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What stage of business growth are you at, as a coach? Understanding the stages of business means you’ll be able to identify your current stage, which will enable you to focus on the key tasks.

A common pitfall of building a coaching business is doing your business-building tasks in the wrong order. Many coaches will be diligently working away on a task that is best designed to happen at a later stage … and then wonder why things aren’t working for them. 

In this post you’ll learn the four phases of business growth, so you can identify which phase you’re in right now, what you should be focusing on, and what the success factors are for each stage.

Let’s dive in!

By the way, if you’d rather listen than read, here’s where you can tune in to this episode:

Now, before we get started, I want to tell you about something I’ve been cooking up behind the scenes for a little while. It’s my 5 day free challenge called Design Your Dream Business. It’s specifically for people who want to build an online coaching business — and if that’s you, I would love to see you inside this challenge! I’ll be describing the details of the challenge (including the VERY juicy giveaway I’m doing) at the bottom of this post, so scroll down if you want to learn more. If you’ve been wanting to build an online coaching business, but you’re having trouble getting started, or you’re not sure how to wrestle all your ideas into a cohesive plan…this challenge is for you. 

Now, on to today’s topic.

I’ve drawn inspiration for these stages from the Harvard Business Review, which identifies 5 phases of business growth, and from my own observation over many years of working with coaches and helping them to grow their businesses, no matter what stage they’re at. My framework only includes 4 phases of business growth…I guess because I like to simplify things as much as possible. That’s just my jam. And it’s what I’ve seen, like I said. 


Phase number one is called startup. This is when you bring your business into existence. In this phase you, as the owner, are the business. There are no plans yet, no contractors, no staff, no team.

In the Startup phase, you feel overwhelmed, because there are too many things to do. You’re working hard, but you haven’t seen any reward yet. As in: no money! And yet, you’re juggling everything and trying to squeeze in the tasks that will help to get you going. Trouble is you don’t really know what to do first, and you don’t have a systematic plan. Which means, you may be building a shaky foundation…and that’s a danger zone for failure and disappointing results. 

At this stage you’re creating a lot of things. You’re creating your programs and packages, your brand, you’re setting up all your business structures, and it’s a very difficult phase to be in because there’s lots to learn and lots of work to get done. 

The main tasks for this stage…

  • Build all your foundation pieces in a timely but effective way–and I usually recommend that people spend no longer than 3 months here, because this is a tough place to be
  • And also this may also be the stage when you need to ensure cash flow from another source so you can actually do the work that’s required to get everything set up, without utter desperation setting in, because you can’t pay your rent.

The potential pitfalls and traps of this stage…

  • Starting to market too soon
  • Getting very distracted by all the shiny objects out there
  • Not having a step-wise system to follow, and feeling overwhelmed because there are a lot of things to take care of in this phase
  • To be honest, this is where a lot of coaches struggle and stall…because they just don’t know how to put together a solid foundation for their business, and they’re not making any money yet, and they’re frustrated, and that sense of hopelessness sets in

So the success factors in this phase…

Being very disciplined with your time because you have to be focussed in order to get everything done with the amount of time that you really have. 

Your very next step forward is to…

  • Give yourself the time and space to properly build your foundation
  • Get all the groundwork laid, so you can then grow from there
  • Invest in expert guidance to help you get this groundwork laid as quickly and as effectively as possible is your best way forward, so you don’t waste a ton of time trying to figure it all out by yourself, or worse, build a shaky foundation that’s going to set you up for a lot of frustration and disappointment down the road, and having to backtrack


The survival phase generally starts once you’ve built your foundation, and you have an existing business. 

You’ve started to get some trickles of income, but you’ve definitely got that feast-or-famine pattern .. which leaves you feeling worried that this “isn’t going to work” and you’ll “never make enough money to replace your day job”. In this stage, I typically see coaches hustling hard…but they’re not seeing the results or the rewards that they were hoping for.

In this phase you probably had some clients you either got them by chance or through a marketing campaign that actually worked for you. You have a little bit of income but you’re still doing everything yourself, you have no team no contractors or maybe one PA or an executive assistant who’s working for you a couple of hours a week or month but nothing steady and consistent. 

This is when you need to take your business from [expensive hobby –or– that feast-or-famine pattern] to a profitable business with regular clients coming in, and consistent income.

It’s called survival for a reason, because you are literally in survival mode as a business owner. 

The main tasks and goals for this stage are to…

  • Get a basic marketing framework in place, and have a process for testing and choosing the most strategic marketing strategies for YOUR particular business
  • If things really aren’t working, it may also be a matter of going back and revising or refining your business foundation, because it’s possible things were built on a shaky foundation, which of course is going to cause a problem
  • For example, if your niche isn’t specific enough, or your messaging is off and you’re not really connecting with your potential clients on an emotional level…then you’re going to have a disconnect

There are a couple of potential pitfalls and traps of this stage…

  • Often, when people are at this stage, they’re not really even sure which marketing strategies to start with…and that can be paralyzing
  • When they’re in the middle of this stage, there can be a whole lot of exhausting hustle…and not enough consistent income…and that can be very frustrating and discouraging

In terms of success factors, there are three: 

  • Consistent lead generation. You’ll want to focus your marketing efforts on making sure that you have built a sales funnel which will bring you more leads consistently, and ultimately clients
  • Number two you really need to take care of client satisfaction. If your clients aren’t happy, they’re not getting the results they’re expecting, this is going to cause a lot of trouble
  • And the third is outsourcing. You’ve been doing everything yourself, and that is not sustainable and is not going to support growth, so you need to hire people to do things for you so you can work in your zone of Genius as much as possible and let other people do all the other important things that need to be taken care of. 

So if you identify with the Survival stage of business, your very next step forward is to…

  • First of all make sure you’ve got your foundation set up right (take an honest look at your niche, your offerings, your pricing, your business model, etc)
  • Then, you need to liberate yourself from the day-to-day minutiae and outsource some tasks
  • And you need to create a smart marketing framework for your business so you are getting consistent client leads coming in every single month. You need a roadmap for how to  find and enroll clients, how to market yourself without losing your mind, and a plan for how to move toward consistent monthly clients and income
  • You also need to analyze your leaks and broken chains! (are people booking discovery calls and not enrolling? Or are you not getting enough discovery calls? Or something else?)


Phase three is called systematize.

I call it this because now you are finally getting some success, and some benefit from all your hard work. You have consistent clients, you have profit in your business, and you maybe have a small team or a few contractors that are helping you with the day-to-day activities in your business. 

But you are perhaps still doing a lot of things manually. Your business still perhaps requires a lot of YOU in it, you being visible, being present in social media, maybe doing live webinars, doing seasonal launches that require a lot of hustle and effort. 

In systematize, this is when you start to focus on more ease and elegance. As your business grows there are going to be more and more projects and activities that you will want to take care of. And it’s not about you doing it all yourself. It’s about you learning to delegate and hire the right people, and manage them effectively. The more you can automate things, the better. The more you can create systems and processes, the better.

This is what will help you move into an even more profitable business that truly gives you the lifestyle you desire. 

Build more systematic FUNNELS to smooth out the bumps of the seasonal launches.

Now that you’ve figured out what works, need to put SYSTEMS in place to ensure consistent income & growth


Phase 4 is when things get really interesting. 

You have hit certain income milestones, whatever those are for you, and you are ready to make an even bigger impact in the world.

Maybe you’re going to scale by growing your team, big time. Maybe you’ll hire other coaches, a coaching team, so you can service more people. Maybe you’ll scale up into group programs, if you haven’t done that already. Maybe it’ll be building a lot of leverage with courses, or live events. Whatever it is for you, this is also about you get removed from the day-to-day stuff and moving into more of a visionary or CEO role. 

The success factors of this stage…

  • continue to hire, and getting really good at managing your team, whichever team members you are hiring and what makes sense for you
  • It’s also about delegating tasks so you can stay free to think about where you want to go, where the business needs to go and make the right decisions for your company and get it to the next level. 
  • and it’s about taking those steps into scale and leverage, moving out of a 1:1 model and into a much more sustainable model with unlocked income potential and a much greater impact in the world

Which is a super exciting place to be.


Okay, so there you have it, the 4 stages of business. Let me just recap:

  • The startup phase, when you’re just at the beginning, and you have to build everything from the ground up, and although you need to move through this phase as quickly as you can, so you can get on to the good stuff of making money and working more consistently with clients, you really do need to build a proper foundation, or else you are setting yourself up for a big mess down the road, or failure to launch, to be honest. 
  • The survival phase, when you’re starting to make some money, but it’s feast or famine and you’re getting burned out and overwhelmed and also frustrated. This can be a scary place too, where you feel like your hair is on fire, because you’re doing all the things.
  • The systematize phase, which is a great place to arrive at, because this is the phase when you need to get things really set up into nice automated systems and a smoothly functioning team so your business can start to run like a well-oiled machine. 
  • And finally the scale phase, which is when things get really fun, and this is when your income level can start to take off, and you’re building out more leveraged income streams, and scaling your offerings, and growing your team even more.

Okay, there you have it! So tell me: where are you? Which stage are you in? Let me know by commenting below, or dropping me a line on Instagram or Facebook!

And then also…regardless of your stage, but especially if you’re in the first or second stage, startup or survival, I would love to see you inside my free challenge, Design Your Dream Business. We are going to have a ton of fun, and we start on Monday, so don’t delay signing up. Plus you are definitely going to want that $500 giveaway to 99Designs, so don’t pass up on that opportunity.


I have a very special invitation for you! I’m holding a free 5 day challenge and you are most definitely invited to take part.

The challenge begins Monday April 27th, 2020, and it’s called Design Your Dream Business.

I’m going to be taking you through a 5-day process to completely design the business of your dreams, which includes crafting a business that supports the lifestyle you desire, the money you want, the purpose you feel called to serve….everything. And, at the end of the 5 days, I’ll be doing a giveaway of $500 toward branding and design for your business through 99 designs, which is an awesome marketplace for graphic designers and people who can help you with design and branding, and all kinds of projects. One lucky participant will have $500 to spend however you choose, on your logo, your website, a book cover, social media graphics — honestly, there are so many options and so many great ways you can take the branding and visual design of your business to a whole new level. 

Now, to qualify for that giveaway, you need to sign up for the challenge and participate each day — I’ll be giving you prompts for each day, in a live video training and email message for each day of the challenge. I’m packing this week with a ton of content and lots of good stuff, you definitely don’t want to miss it.

To participate in the challenge, sign up right here.

And then watch your email inbox for your welcome email. And then on Monday April 27th, we’ll get started!

I can’t wait to do this with you, I’m so excited to help you design your dream business!

Resources & Links:

Come chat to me on Instagram or Facebook and let me know what stage you’re at in your coaching business—let’s have a conversation!

LET’S HOP ON A CONSULTATION CALL! LEARN MORE HERE: https://drkimfoster.com/consultation

N.B. some links are affiliate links.

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