Are you wondering if you’re doing the right things in your business? Do you know what stage of business you’re in? Knowing where you are helps you make good decisions, and waste less time and money.

golden retriever puppy Allie - stages of online business is like raising a puppy

One of the biggest issues I see happening in the online world is business owners trying to do the right thing at the wrong time.

For example, maybe you’re trying to run FB ads before you test your offer to a warm audience. Or maybe you’re trying to run a webinar before having an email list up and running. Perhaps you’re diving into growing on 4 different social media platforms before you’re generating revenue with your offers.

What happens when we try to do something that doesn’t line up with our stage of business? We don’t see the results that we’re hoping for.

First let me say, this is totally normal. I have done it and most everyone I know has done it, too.

But when you have a better understanding of the stages of online business and where your focus should be during each stage, you will be less likely to get distracted and waste time on things that are not for you right now.

I’m going to give you an overview of the stages and in next week’s episode, I’ll talk about general guidelines for where to focus in each stage.

If you want to learn more or hear this topic approached from a slightly different angle, I recommend these podcast episodes:

“One of the things that I see happen in the online world… is doing the right things at the wrong time.”

The 5 Stages of Online Business

Stage 1: Getting Started in Online Biz – aka The New Puppy Phase

When we first got our puppy, Allie, here’s what the first few weeks looked like:

  • We were super excited, and couldn’t stop talking about her to everyone.
  • We took a million pictures.
  • We snuggled her constantly and found it hard to focus on anything else.
  • We took her everywhere and tried to expose her to lots of different things.
  • We were the center of her world and she stuck close to us everywhere we went.

When you first start your online business, it’s very similar to this phase. The business is new and exciting and you probably find yourself working on ideas and content a lot. You’ve been dreaming of this day, and are so excited your dreams are starting to materialize.

You tell everyone about your business, and you’re running hard after your goals. You are probably working with a variety of types of clients and might even be doing different types of work – finding work you can to get things going.

Here are a few other features of the puppy phase:

  • It’s a lot of work.
  • House-breaking and training are time consuming, challenging and frustrating
  • You lose a fair amount of sleep.
  • You get excited over the tiniest of accomplishments (like the first time they sit anywhere close to on-command.)

With your business, you might feel some of the same things. You’re often going to be spending a lot of time with it. You’ll be excited but you might also start to get exhausted because it’s a lot of work! You might love it AND resent it at the same time.

“It’s a lot of work to get a business off the ground.”

Stage 2: Testing aka The Older Puppy Phase

When a puppy gets a bit older, they start to develop a bit more of their personality and attitude. You start to see their “true colors” and sometimes it can be tough to reign them in. With Allie, that looked like:

  • She was house-broken, sleeping through the night, and starting to follow basic commands.
  • She was more adventurous, exploring and running off instead of staying close.
  • She got more mouthy, playful and started needing lots of exercise and playtime.
  • She started to learn (and express) what she likes and doesn’t like.

In your business, this stage is when things start picking up. Clients or customers are coming in and you are starting to have a steady stream of business. You might start to narrow down who you are working with and what you offer.

Your business might start to feel a little bit harder to manage. Since it’s growing, there are more moving parts and more to keep up with. Sometimes it might even feel like it’s getting away from you and you can’t keep up.

You’ve also started to get into a groove in certain areas… you’re getting comfortable with the work you’re doing but sometimes you struggle to keep up or might be unsure how to deal with clients who push boundaries.

“Sometimes we have to learn by making mistakes.”

Stage 3: Established Business aka The ‘Entering Adulthood’ Phase

At this stage with our puppy, we were through a lot of the hardest parts. When entering adulthood Allie:

  • Understands basic commands.
  • Is confident, goes a lot of places, and knows what we expect of her.
  • Has a routine that works, and we mostly know what to expect from her.
  • Has a strong bond with us, and we enjoy being together.
  • Needs to keep working to develop consistency (like making sure she comes when we call, even when the neighbors are outside and she wants to say hi).

In your business, the established phase is usually where you are starting to get into a rhythm. You’ve developed some processes and systems that help you keep your business flowing. You are working with clients you enjoy and you might be niching down more to focus on the clients you really love. You need consistency and persistence to get your business to the next stage.

Stage 4: Scaling aka the Performance phase

Once a dog reaches adulthood, some people decide to teach him or her to do even more. They might put their dog into more advanced training where they learn how to do specialized tricks, enter dog shows, or become a therapy dog. Some decide to keep their dogs right where they are, and enter a stage that is consistent and long lasting.

The same is true in business. Once you are established, it’s totally fine to stay there and maintain what you have created. Perhaps you’ve got yourself and a VA and you’re serving your clients and loving what you do. If that’s the case you can stay in stage 3 and that’s good.

But if you want to be able to increase your revenue or you want to remove yourself somewhat from the day to day work, then you will enter the scaling phase.

There are a couple ways to do this:

  • Scaling by hiring a team. In this method, you hire others who you can train in your systems and processes. This allows you to take on more clients or cut down your hours by paying others to do some of the work you were doing.
  • Scaling by offering group programs and courses. You might have started out doing 1:1 client work, but then you develop a solid system and process for your work and can start offering this process in a group setting. Once you’ve tested it with more people, you create a course based on that process that you could sell to many people over time.

Stage 5: Duplication aka the Breeding phase

Maybe you have a really amazing dog, and you decide the world needs more of these dogs. In this case, you decide to breed your dog so that it can have puppies.

Note: Please don’t send hate mail if you don’t agree with breeding dogs… this is just an example!

Likewise with your business, you might decide, okay this business is amazing and it’s doing really important work in the world and we need to duplicate what we are doing.

I do think this is a little different in the online space vs. offline. For example, it makes total sense if you own a really successful hair salon that you might then decide to open up a new location in another town.

But in the online space, this is a little different. One thing that applies here is developing a certification program. This is what my client and friend Natalie Gingrich did with her Director of Operations Certification program.

She was a Director of Operations but she saw so many other businesses that needed what she could do. Since she couldn’t serve more than a few clients at a time, she decided to develop a certification program to train other people to do what she did. So in a sense, that’s a combination of the scaling phase AND the duplication phase, in that she both scaled her business AND duplicated it at the same time.

On episode 40, I’ll be sharing some general guidelines about where to focus in each stage of online business. 

If you’re ready to continue to grow your business and want to connect with other women at your stage of business (as well as other stages), head over to to join our FB group! Here you’ll get the chance to connect and continue the conversation from this podcast.

Faith Focus:

Joshua 23:6-8 (ESV)

“Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day.”

Sometimes I see in the online space, someone claiming Christianity, but there are things in their business that don’t line up with Scripture. This passage is a good reminder not to mix advice from other sources with what God has to say.

It also reminds us that there will be times in our business and lives when things are not easy, things are unexpected, and this is a reminder that He should be our source for everything.

Shine a Light Segment:

I want to shine a light on Cyndee Ownbey, speaker, writer, and women’s ministry mentor.

She’s the founder of Women’s Ministry Toolbox – an online resource for women serving in women’s ministry as a team member, Bible study facilitator, or small group leader.

She has a website full of resources, a thriving FB group, and a recently launched podcast. She provides hope and inspiration for women’s ministry leaders and team members of all stages serving in their local church community. Check out Cydnee’s resources here:

Cyndee is also a member of my upLIFT program and here’s what she had to say about the program:

“Esther’s coaching has helped me to think differently about what I’m offering in my business. I’m SO thankful for the opportunity to be a part of her group program upLIFT. It is helping me move forward much faster than I could on my own–I’m being pushed (in a good way) to a whole new level.”

I love having Cyndee in my community and I love supporting what she is doing, so be sure to head over and check it out!

This episode was sponsored by Podcast in a Weekend mini-course. This short course combines strategy and shortcuts to help you launch or relaunch a podcast, even if you’re busy wrangling clients, writing a book, or just trying to recover from 2020. If you’ve been thinking about launching a podcast, head over to: It’s only $37, and it’s packed with valuable content!

Pin it for later:

golden retriever puppy running | how growing a business is like raising a puppy