The Entrepreneurial Map: Three Stages of Business

When I first started out in business, I felt lost.

I had an idea.  A way I could help people.  A family to support.

I thought if I could just combine those three things in a way that made sense, I’d be golden.

With that limited vision, in August 2003 I set out on the entrepreneurial journey.

Looking back now, with the benefit of  years of experience and several businesses under my belt, I can see how helpful it would have been for me to have a bigger picture vision right from the beginning.

I would have experienced so much less frustration, stress and worry if I could have known where I was in the grand scheme of things, where I was trying to go and how to know when I got there.

But, back then I didn’t necessarily even know there was a there.  And I certainly had no idea where it was.

Now that I’ve walked the entrepreneurial path for several years (and gotten waylaid a few times) I can see the outlines of a map that I’d now like to share with you.

Had I seen it at the beginning, my journey may have been less frustrating.

If you are in the midst of building a business (or a practice) that you want to be able to count on, that you want to know makes a difference in the world and makes plenty of money, this map will help.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say “make your choices from where you want to be, not from where you are” and while I agree with this wisdom, I also know it’s critically important for you to be fully grounded in the reality of where you are or the decisions you make from where you want to be will be filled with angst and pressure.

Freedom in life and business means being able to rest in the present while taking daily action to move forward without angst or pressure.

With that in mind, accept the reality of where you are and don’t give up.

Here are the three stages you must move through if you want to build a sustainable, meaningful business that will make a significant impact in the world.

Stage 1: The True Solo

Stage 1 is all about brand new-ness. It’s about the idea, the vision, and just getting started and getting it done. It’s about figuring out the revenue model (where the money comes from) and getting on the road to freedom.

Generally speaking, you are probably working alone or with a partner. There is no team support or perhaps one person helping you out on a part time basis. There are no systems. And probably just one revenue stream, which will be your main product or service offering.

Some businesses (primarily those called “practices”) may remain in Stage 1 indefinitely. Owners stuck at Stage 1 may feel frustrated, tired (or exhausted), and as if they are not making as much of an impact as they’d like.

Stage 2: The Enterprising Entrepreneur

When you get tired of doing it all alone, you’ll bring on some team. That’s one of the major signs you’ve made it beyond Stage 1.

You’ll also begin to realize that there’s a pattern to what you do and how you do it.  Yep, you’ve got systems and processes.

You are still working pretty hard, but you are spending more time working on your business than in your business.  And you may begin to explore and implement additional revenue streams.

Financially, you are doing okay.  You know how you make money in your business and you are constantly surprised by how much money it takes to make money.  You’d probably like to keep a bit more than you are.

While you have a team, you are the one managing that team, for the most part.  You dream of the day you get to spend all your time doing the parts of your business you really love and let go of the rest.

Stage 3: The Empire/Legacy Builder

At Stage 3, your work can continue on without you.  You’ve very likely got multiple consistent revenue streams within the company and you spend your time working either on the business or in the business, but not both.

If you got sick, took a long vacation or the long permanent vacation, your business would continue.

You’ve got documented systems and process, a phenomenal team, and other leaders in the company besides just yourself.

The transition from Stage 2 to Stage 3 will be harder than you expect, at least that’s my current experience.  I’ll update you if that changes.

And if you try to make this transition too quickly, the whole thing will blow up in your face.  I have direct experience with that from my attempt to transition out of my first business completely too quickly and without the right team in place.

Until your business is sold and under phenomenal new management that you totally trust, expect to be involved.  You may have some passive revenue streams via real estate or investments and your business may have some passive revenue streams as part of its revenue model, but don’t expect your business to provide you with passive revenue as long as you still own it.

No matter where you are today and how far it seems you have to go on the journey, if you are in business for yourself, stop for a minute and celebrate.

You are working for yourself.  You are in control of your destiny.  You are on the road to freedom.


  1. terrizSunday, April 11, 2010 at 12:46 am 

    This is a great map, Alexis! I realize I spent 5+ years in Stage 2 — I totally skipped Stage 1 (well, I tried it for a few months, didn't like it, and stopped practicing.) For the last couple of years, I've been trying to reach Stage 3, but in a it-would-be-nice-if kind of way. I just finally got intentional about getting to Stage 3 at the beginning of this year.

    And now I'm trying to complete the Stage 3 transition AND launch a newish business at Stage 1. I think it's helpful for me to think of it as a separate business that will have a Stage 2 and 3…thanks for the nudge!

  2. Lexi RodrigoSunday, April 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm 

    I've just entered Stage 2. Looking forward to getting to Stage 3, when the time comes.

    In the meantime, I've created a document so that, if anything happened to me, my hubby will be able to: stop unnecessary business expenses; know whom to contact for help if he wants to keep certain parts of my biz going; and, liquidate my websites for fast cash.

    Thanks for this map, Alexis. You're an inspiration!

  3. ReginaSunday, April 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm 

    I'm in stage one and feel confident that having gone through your Money Map program and now starting your Business Breakthrough Model program (or is it Breakthrough Business Model?! lol), that I can get to stage two.

  4. Marjorie FSunday, April 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm 

    We'll there's a stage before one and it's where I'm stuck right now. I never before thought of myself as an “entrepreneur” — I was/am a teacher, thinker, writer, speaker. But lately, I've become incredibly restless and want something “more” without having a clear vision of what that might look like. Slowly (and strangely), I find myself reading more and more about entrepreneurs and startups and beginning to ask myself it that's where I might make a difference. I'm just beginning to ask if this is the next stage for me, but really have no idea how to bring my passions together into a coherent business proposition–one that pays the bills and fulfills my passions.

  5. alexisneelySunday, April 11, 2010 at 6:43 pm 

    Terri, yes! It so helps to be clear about where we are so we can intentionally go where we want to go. In the past, I used to start new businesses as part of my prior business, which got things all muddy and confusing. So much better now to realize they are separate and give them each their own growth process. Glad this helped! Alexis

  6. Ann-Michele TimmermanMonday, April 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm 

    Hello Alexis:

    Excellent article! I feel that this is so important to address because a). It lets entrepreneurs what they're experiencing is NORMAL and that they're not ALONE (the entrepreneurial world can often be a lonely one, at least for me!) and b). You're really talking about the natural process of things. As with anything in life, be it relationships, raising children, what have you, there is a natural, flowing process to it and if we don't let this unfold properly – you're right! It can blow up in our faces!

    (I actually enjoyed this article so much that I'm going to read it to my better half! He's not an entrepreneur himself, and this will help give him insight into what the heck I often talk about!)


  7. bmethnerMonday, April 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm 

    I know a lot of lawyers who get to stage two, fail, and then remain at stage one for the remainder of their careers. I almost experienced this, but was able to press on and I am currently at an early level stage 3 now. I work from home and can organize my life the way I want; however, I am still the manager too. I am building my law Firm/business from the ground-up and it looks like you are coming from the top down? I will be interested to hear how this all settles out.
    Brian Methner

  8. alexisneelyTuesday, April 20, 2010 at 12:27 am 

    Very insightful Marjorie. You are right. I remember too before I knew I was an entrepreneur. Thanks for reminding me. I will write about this. We have a course starting soon (the Money Map to Freedom) that will be very helpful for you. Watch for it. Or get on the waiting list at


  9. Robin4empowermentTuesday, April 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm 

    Hello Alexis! Brilliant as usual. I've dipped my toe in stage two, however, I do realize that I must
    fully emerge myself. Carrie Wilkerson and Ali Brown have been very instrumental in stressing the importance of a team and leveraging your time. Thanks for elaborating on the “making decisions from where you want to be” as there is room for embracing where you are. This is a key ingredient to realizing a juicy manifestation of AUTHENTIC life and business EMPOWERMENT!

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