Skip to Main Content
Ninety logoNinety Presents
concrete walls at different levels

Building a Stage Five Company

One of the sayings we’re fond of here at Ninety is, “We are exactly where we’re supposed to be, learning the lessons we need to learn to take things to the next level.” How do we get there, you might ask? Well, that’s another of our favorite sayings: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”  

Identifying where you are in the Stages of Development is key; you might be a Stage One company fighting for survival in a new market, or you might be further along in your organizational journey. Wherever you are, you are. But if you take a purposeful, measured approach, things tend to go more smoothly as you find your rhythm. Then, that rhythm established, things move faster as you become a well-oiled machine, marching toward becoming a Stage Five company.

And THAT is where we all want to be, the stage where a company operates with comprehensive excellence, from its aligned people to its processes and data integration. A successful structure is in place, and the Founder is free to completely focus on where the company needs to be in five to ten years. Such attributes allow the company to build wisely for the future.

Focus on the 9 Core Competencies

Getting your Senior Leadership Team on the same page about your priorities is essential if you want to build a Stage Five company. To do so, you will eventually need to master the 9 Core Competencies associated with great organizations — Vision, Customer, Goals, People, Structure, Data, Meetings, Process, and Enterprise Value.

Of course, you don’t need to master them all during the earlier stages of the company’s growth. Like anything, it takes time. What’s important, however, is to understand the five Stages of Development and regularly assess the progress of the company, departments, and teams. If all is strong across the board, that’s (obviously) great. If things are unacceptably stressful or chaotic, then it's time to ask questions, listen, and talk about what to do.

(Helpful side note: We use Weekly Team Meetings at Ninety to identify such Issues, and then we engage in a process called Raise, Discuss, and Resolve to best tackle the most pressing of those Issues. You can learn more about these concepts, tools, and disciplines in our 90u Library.) 

Great companies are complex, adaptive systems that are either growing or dying. They rarely just plateau. At Ninety, our purpose is to help leaders build extraordinarily productive, humane, and resilient organizations where employees are focused, aligned, and thriving. We make it almost easy for leaders to turn good businesses into good, if not great, companies. Having helped thousands of leaders do just that, we’re confident in the following concepts and the questions you should ask in pursuit of achieving them:

Everyone — the company, and every department, team, and individual — wants to matter.

  • How do you ensure that every individual, team, and department in your organization is able to see the value they bring to the company and how they contribute to the bigger picture?
  • Are there systems in place that ensure that contributions are acknowledged and valued?
  • Are you sufficiently empowering individuals and teams to take ownership of their work, to make decisions, to innovate, and to take appropriate risks?

To matter (and continue to matter), we need to evolve.

  • How are you fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability within your organization?
  • How are you ensuring that individuals, teams, and departments within your organization are not just reacting to change, but proactively evolving to change?
  • How are you preparing your organization for the future?

To evolve requires awareness of oneself and others.

  • What measures, processes, or respectfully framed contexts have you created within your organization for individuals and teams to learn and reflect on their strengths, their weaknesses, their patterns, and their areas of desired growth?
  • How open are individuals within your organization to give and receive feedback (or, as we like to call it, feedforward)?
  • What tools are you using that enable individuals and teams to understand each other better? For example, do these tools promote increased empathy, stronger collaboration, and appreciation of diverse perspectives and experiences?

Every business must pass through the Stages of Development if its leaders want to build a company they can pass on to the next generation or sell for more than liquidation value.

  • How aware are all the leaders within your organization of the Stages of Development and what they mean for their department or team?
  • How aligned is every department’s strategy with your goal of building a Stage Five company that is both sustainable and transferrable?
  • Are you building value in your business beyond its tangible assets, such as brand reputation, high-trust relationships with all of your Ideal Stakeholders, and intellectual property?

Every business, department, team, and individual will eventually hit a ceiling where “what got us here won't get us there.”

  • What are you doing to ensure that your individuals, teams, departments, or whole organization are prepared to break through the ceiling they will inevitably hit?
  • How ready is your organization to deal with hitting a ceiling simultaneously at several levels (organizational, department, team, and individual)? What are you doing, if anything, to prepare your leaders for such a possibility?
  • Spoiler Alert: We offer a few tips on how to break through the ceiling below.

Every business that wants to move to Stage Five eventually will need to master the 9 Core Competencies.

  • Are all the leaders within your organization meeting the requirements of each of the 9 Core Competencies?
  • Are there areas in your business where you feel people are working harder than necessary? How could mastering the 9 Core Competencies help improve efficiency in these areas?
  • How are you ensuring that your organization is not just repeating the same actions, but constantly learning and improving?

Every business has a Business Operating System (BOS)... and many could use an upgrade.

  • Does your BOS provide all the concepts, tools, and disciplines that will enable you to grow your business all the way through Stage Five? If not, are you upgrading your BOS?
  • How well does your BOS equip your organization to break through the inevitable ceilings that come with growth?
  • Have you engaged with the right BOS Coach to guide you through the appropriate BOS upgrade?
Two coworkers in discussion while one navigates Ninety

Sooo… What Now?

We understand how easy it is to feel overwhelmed when considering how to pull all of this together. That’s why we offer plenty of helpful resources in our 90u Library that break down the concepts, tools, and disciplines that can get you from one stage to the next. We also have an organizational Baseline Assessment to help leaders identify exactly where their company is at the moment, and we invite you to roll up your sleeves and dig into that valuable exercise of self-reflection.

Hitting the ceiling at any stage, after all, is a reality some will face. To minimize the pain that comes with that kind of plateau, aim to master these nine skills as a team (and individually):

  • Envision your organization's future to determine the Focus Filters you'll need to make the best decisions you can to turn your Vision into reality.
  • Structure your organization’s Core Functions (essential departments organizations need to operate) to serve future growth.
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities others are better at or enjoy more so you can take on work that you love doing, are great at, or have a long-term impact on your organization.
  • Systematize your Core Processes to define how you conduct business.
  • Simplify the ways the organization thinks, communicates, and operates.
  • Coach team members so they improve in their current Seat and are on a path for the career progression they desire.
  • Be a storyteller to inspire your team members to be heroes on their own journeys and in the organization's journey to achieve its Vision
  • Set and achieve goals with specific short-term accuracy and long-term aims to create the biggest impact.
  • Execute consistently and predictably to Get Smart Things Done (GSSD) throughout the organization.

Ninety Was Built for This

The best Business Operating Systems — like EOS® or our own 90os — contain time-tested concepts, tools, and disciplines that help us understand who we are, where we are, and how to break through the ceilings we’ll eventually run up against as we build, run, and scale an organization.

Ninety offers all of that in our innovative, cloud-based platform, designed to help teams build great companies by working smarter and more effectively, together. Start a free 30-day trial to see just how valuable our platform is in helping you make the transitional shift to the next stage in your organization’s development.

Subscribe to my Founder's Framework newsletter to discover how successful founders leverage proven frameworks to build thriving companies they’ll love forever.

Business-building insights delivered right to your inbox.