The business cycle and its 4 characters by Les McKeown

At the beginning of my journey I was wandering, without even knowing about the business cycle, what’s the cycle of a business? There must be one. There must be certain stages, that happen every single time, while having exact the same characteristics, no matter what. Then I discover the business life cycle and it remained with me, both when I was following and not. If you read other texts by me, you know how passionated I am about systems and predictability.

A few hours ago I discovered a great talk on the topic, which I know it will be super-useful for you. Absolutely specific, still easy to digest video from Les McKeown. Bellow the video, I want to share with you my personal notes on the talk, in order for you to follow the business life cycle intentionally, so growth with its ups and downs is not a mystery anymore.

1. Early stage (finding the market)

Main goal: finding a market

Character: The Visionary – he likes simply starting things and is always distracted by new/ shinny thins

Behavior: trying to find a sustainable and profitable market. In short, a market that can keep us in the game long term, from a financial point of view

2. Fun stage (found the market, traction happens)

Goal: growth

Character: The Operator – gets happy by getting things done, which allows more traction. It is the type of person always wants to do something.


  • you say “yes” to anything, even to those things you shouldn’t, because you feel that you are growing, which is new, fun and fulfilling
  • you can stay here, but you won’t be able scale

3. White water (systems and processes happen)

Goal: developing systems and procedures

Behavior: things get crowded, lack of control owns the scene

Character: The Processor – he/ she is someone who puts systems and processes in place (like me);

Behavior: Even if all 3 characters, the visionary, the operator and the processor are equally (yes, equally) important, even if there’s some happiness in the beginning, they don’t work that great together, simply because each one wants something else for the company, based on his/ her character

4. Predictable success (scale happen)

Goal: making scale possible

Balanced Characters: The Visionary, The Operator, The Processor.


  • this comes when all 3 characters can work together
  • to stay here, all 3 must have equal roles and each must develop a 4th style, the Synergist, where no one’s more important than the other
  • as long as this is the way things happen, we can stay in this mode, enjoying predictable success
  • at one point, things naturally go forward and something new happens

5. Treadmill (too bureaucratic)

Goal: balancing the characters and going back to predictable success

Exaggerated Character: The processor


  • we make the processor dominant, vision and processes are not balanced anymore, so we become too bureaucratic
  • here, if the visionary stand up and correct the things, everything can go back to predictable success

6. The big rut (no vision)

Goal: balancing the characters and going back to predictable success

Missing Character: The Visionary


  • the operator needs the visionary to know what to do, but there’s no visionary anymore
  • the processor builds systems and procedures that don’t have meaning anymore
  • strangely, this feels very comfortable and it will manifest as a long slow decline

7. Death rattle (game over)

Do you have any questions regarding the business life cycles?

You are a bit stuck and don’t know how to go to the next level?

Or maybe you just want to understand more about where you are?

Write a comment bellow and I will respond to you.