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Life & Death Cycle of Small Businesses

Updated: Feb 9

Man climbing steps from challenges to joy and happiness at journey's completion
From Challenges to Triumph: A Cyclical Journey of Success in Business

The Life Cycle of Small Businesses in New Zealand: A Comprehensive Guide


Small businesses are the backbone of New Zealand's economy. Understanding the life cycle of a small business is crucial for success, sustainability, and growth. This article will explore the different phases of a small business life cycle, how to identify the current stage and the necessary behaviours for each phase.

Definition of Small Businesses

In New Zealand, small businesses are defined as those employing 20 people or less. These businesses play a significant role in the country's economy, contributing to employment, enterprises, and GDP.

Graph showing small business contribution to the New Zealand economy
A Snapshot of Success: How Small Businesses Fuel New Zealand's Economy"

Small Business Contribution to New Zealand's Economy

Importance of Small Businesses in the Economy

Small businesses make up 97% of all enterprises in New Zealand. They employ around 29% of the workforce and contribute 26% of the GDP. This highlights the vital role they play in the economic landscape.

Introduction to the Life Cycle Concept

Like living organisms, businesses go through different stages in their life cycle. Understanding these stages helps business owners make informed decisions, adapt to changes, and stay competitive.

Life Cycle of Small Businesses

Graph showing characteristics and challenges at each stage of the business cycle
Navigating the Journey: Key Characteristics and Challenges at Every Business Cycle Stage

Startup Phase


  • High energy and enthusiasm

  • Limited resources

  • Focus on product development


  • Cash flow management

  • Building customer base

  • Regulatory compliance

Identifying the Stage

  • Limited sales

  • High expenses

  • Focus on market entry

Behaviours to Adopt

  • Focus on product quality

  • Invest in marketing

  • Seek professional advice

Growth Phase


  • Increasing sales and customers

  • Hiring staff

  • Expanding product lines


  • Managing growth

  • Maintaining quality

  • Competitive pressures

Identifying the Stage

  • Steady revenue increase

  • Growing customer base

  • Expanding operations

Behaviours to Adopt

  • Invest in technology

  • Focus on customer service

  • Monitor competition

Graph showing levels of applicable behavior at each stage of the business cycle
Behaviors that Drive Success: Tailoring Your Approach at Each Stage of the Business Cycle

Maturity Phase


  • Stable revenue

  • Established market presence

  • Streamlined operations


  • Stagnation

  • Increased competition

  • Market saturation

Identifying the Stage

  • Stable but slow growth

  • Strong brand recognition

  • Focus on efficiency

Behaviours to Adopt

  • Diversify products/services

  • Focus on customer retention

  • Analyze market trends

Decline Phase

Graph showing typical time duration at each stage of the business cycle
Timing Matters: Understanding the Typical Duration of Each Stage in the Business Cycle


  • Decreasing sales

  • Loss of market share

  • Staff reduction


  • Financial pressures

  • Technological obsolescence

  • Loss of key personnel

Identifying the Stage

  • Consistent revenue decline

  • Loss of customers

  • Shrinking market presence

Behaviours to Adopt

  • Consider restructuring

  • Explore new markets

  • Evaluate exit strategies

Life Cycle Stages and Challenges

The Need for Reinvention

Adapting to Market Changes

  • Stay ahead of trends and fashions

  • Embrace technological advancements

  • Innovate products and services

Staying Competitive

  • Continuously evaluate the market

  • Adapt to consumer behaviour

  • Invest in research and development

Innovating Products and Services

  • Focus on customer needs

  • Encourage creativity and innovation

  • Collaborate with industry partners

Reinventing Strategies

  • Understand the current phase

  • Identify opportunities and threats

  • Implement changes effectively

Real-Life Examples

Success Stories

  • Apple Inc. - Reinventing technology

  • Airbnb - Transforming the travel industry

Lessons Learned

  • Blockbuster - Failure to adapt to digital streaming

  • Kodak - Ignoring the digital photography revolution


Understanding the life cycle of a small business is essential for success. Businesses can thrive, adapt, and grow by identifying the current stage and adopting the right behaviours. The high percentage of small businesses in New Zealand's economy underscores the importance of this knowledge.

Summary of Key Points

  • Startup Phase: Focus on product quality, invest in marketing, and seek professional advice.

  • Growth Phase: Invest in technology, focus on customer service, and monitor competition.

  • Maturity Phase: Diversify products/services, focus on customer retention, and analyze market trends.

  • Decline Phase: Consider restructuring, explore new markets, and evaluate exit strategies.

Encouragement for Small Business Owners

The journey of a small business is filled with challenges and opportunities. Embracing the life cycle concept, adapting to changes, and innovating is key to long-term success. Keep pushing forward, and remember that every big business was once a small startup.

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