Blog: Your GPS for Business Success: 5 Stages of Business

Maryann Croce

We use the technology all the time. The purpose of a GPS (Global Positioning System) is location. You need to know where you are to get to your desired destination.

You wouldn’t take a road trip without a destination, a map, and a vehicle.

Business success is achievable when we:

  • have a destination (goal)
  • have a plan to get there (strategy)
  • stay flexible and adaptable for the bumps in the road during the journey (action items)

It sounds simple and yet many overlook this idea in business. You see other auto shops further along and wonder, what you can incorporate into your business. You try what others are doing and get frustrated. For some reason it didn’t work. You wonder what you’re doing wrong. The simple answer is nothing. That other business is in a different STAGE of business.


Business success comes from focusing on the priorities at each stage. It’s about sequencing.  Taking the steps needed to do the right activities at the right time. In the end we are all measured and held accountable to RESULTS.

As a Certified Partner of Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year™, we talk about the Five Stages of Business, which is an extremely useful model to look at the journey to grow any business. When I’m working with auto shop owners my job is to customize the stages specifically to our industry.

  • START UP – No consistent sales. You’re doing it all and creating habits that will not always serve you or your business as you next level.
  • RAMP UP – Sales are coming in. You’re trying to keep up with the work. You don’t have enough hours in the day.
  • BUILD UP – Building a team. You’re putting out fires. Everyone comes to you for answers
  • SCALE UP – You need leaders. You’re working on getting the right people in the right seats.
  • LEADER UP – Your business is a Leader in your market. You’re looking for new ventures and or opportunities.

If we allow ourselves to go from a (doer) or technician mindset to an owner mindset, we begin to see the bigger picture as we go through these stages. Many will get to the BUILD UP stage on their own, but it can take years. Most will benefit from outside training, coaching, mentoring or an accountability partner.

Knowing what to focus on at each stage will speed up your success instead of getting stuck and spinning your wheels for years.

  • START UP – Focus on: Validation of your ideal customers, offers and services. When we market to every vehicle owner, we market to no one. Stand out!
  • RAMP UP – Focus on: Automation of marketing and sales. Gain hours back by simplifying with tools, outsourcing, and delegating.
  • BUILD UP – Focus on: Systems/Process/Technology for a team. Be a shop that is consistent and efficient.
  • SCALE UP – Focus on: People – Empower Leaders. Take time away from your business as you need to or want to without worry.
  • LEADER UP – Focus on: Market Share / Acquisition Keep up with industry trends, opportunities and the relationships you’ve built.

The most common question I get asked from clients or from an audience when I speak on the 5 stages of business is: Why do I feel like I’m in more than one stage of business?

The simple answer is you’re getting distracted by focusing on activities you think you should be doing or because another shop is doing them.

A personal example as a new parent would be, bringing home a newborn and focusing on their first bike and the best way to teach a child to ride. It’s not the right activity to focus on because another parent you know is doing that. They’re in a different stage of parenting.

An auto shop example would be a shop struggling to fill their bays [START UP focus] and they decide to work on systems and processes [BUILD UP focus] because that is what they heard another shop is working on.

The first shop (START UP) is a one or two-person shop and needs to validate their ideal customer and market directly to them. The second shop (BUILD UP) has a steady flow of customers but needs to have consistency and efficiency in their team.

There was a reason you went into business. Something motivated you. That reason is your why and it will change as you build your skills as a leader. It may have started out simply as a paycheck or to have security for your family. It will evolve as you transform from a (doer) technician mindset to an owner mindset. My point is, you took the hardest step. You started and that takes grit.

At the end of the day we all want to be building momentum to reach our goals.  When you lay your head on the pillow each night, knowing that you’re making a difference for your family, team and community makes for a restful sleep.

Understanding the 5 stages of business will help keep you focused on the activities that are the most important at each stage. Keep in mind that many can get to the Build Up stage on their own. With help from training, coaching, mentoring and an accountability partner you can next level sooner and reap the rewards of years not spent, spinning your wheels stuck, and deep down knowing there must be a better way.

And there’s more…



Maryann Croce, a certified partner of Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year™, is a business coach and owner of Small Biz Vantage. Her company specializes in leadership development for trade business owners. She is an auto shop owner since 1999. You can reach Maryann at (203) 913-7741 or Maryann speaks on leadership and mindset.