From Solopreneur to CEO: 5 Key Phases

You are still going through different phases, and there’s plenty of room to grow; not just your business, but also yourself as an entrepreneur. 

Here are the 5 key phases you’ll go through in your CEO journey. Find out which phase you’re in, and the next crucial steps to move forward.


Phase 1: Solopreneur

The solopreneur phase is when the business owner knows and does everything.

You’re the graphic designer. You’re the social media manager. You’re the one working with clients, you’re the one handling the books.

In the solopreneur phase, you really don’t have a team. Your entire business depends on you..

Is that a good thing?

For a solopreneur who’s content with running a startup, and enjoys handling everything, yes…for the short term.

But if you want to grow your business long-term, this is bad news. 

Here’s why:

  • A solopreneur’s life is always busy, and often bordering burnout. Definitely not good for your health and happiness.
  • When you stop working, so does your business.
  • Relying solely on your own ideas and actions is not scalable.

So as soon as you can financially afford it, it’s time to take that next step to start hiring.


Phase 2: Manager

Truth is, you can’t be a solopreneur forever. I know it’s going to feel scary to invest in that first team member, but it’s the right step to take.

This is the phase where you make your first hires and start learning how to manage your work and resources effectively.

Who are those first hires?

You’ll want to start looking for a team member who can take some things off your plate. You have two choices.

  • Generalist – A generalist does all kinds of things but at a lower level. For example, they can schedule social media posts, reply to your emails, or set up your upcoming meetings. They usually have the role of a general virtual assistant (VA).
  • Specialist – You can also choose to hire someone who has industry knowledge, skills, and expertise in a specific role such as a copywriter, bookkeeper, or a social media manager.

In this phase, you’ll likely be hiring freelancers and independent contractors so you can free up your time and easily move to the next phase.


Phase 3: Operator

Let’s talk about why you don’t want to be stuck in phase two. 

As you might imagine, hiring freelancers or independent contractors are outside entities that only do the work for you, but are running their own businesses. They’re not part of your internal team. Long-term, there could be problems with:

  • Alignment – Since they’re not part of your team, they may not be aligned with your vision, mission, and values.
  • Focus – Freelancers and independent contractors have several clients. And you’re just one of them. They determine their capacity and pricing, based on what’s best for their business – not yours. They’re not typically all in and focused on growing your business as much as they are their own.

This is the phase where you step into the operator role. As an operator, you start to build your own team, hire internally, and lead them.

As you hire an internal team, you get the perks of:

  • All In Culture – Your own team’s goal is to help you grow your business. You can openly communicate your mission, vision, and values so everyone’s aligned in the team.
  • Return On Investment – It’s often more affordable to hire internal team members vs. contractors/freelancers. Plus, you’re able to better manage their schedule, workload and performance. Therefore, you can expect a greater return on investment when your team is managed well.


Phase 4: CEO

This is the stage where you let go of the operator-level tasks and actually step into the CEO role.

Aside from hiring generalists and specialists in your team, you’re now hiring other leaders in your business.

You may hire an integrator/COO or department directors. 

An integrator, as the name suggests, integrates your team and work across all departments. Simply put, they make sure your team isn’t just doing what they need to do, but also perform well and deliver great results.

How would you know you’re ready to hire leaders so you can step up as a CEO?

  • You’ve already handed off implementation of most tasks in the business, but you’re still working overtime.
  • You’re ready to hand off management and strategy… or in other words, you’re ready to delegate results.
  • You’re too focused on short-term goals in your business and need leaders to focus on results today, while you focus on what’s next.

The result: 

  • You focus on the bigger picture, create a vision for the business, and think about the future
  • You hone the work culture and align your team with business vision, mission, and values
  • You create business assets, and industry-leading content
  • You build relationships with other businesses and industry experts
  • You make strategic decisions

Stepping up to the CEO role is important when scaling your business because these are specific CEO responsibilities that ONLY you can do. 

You need to start seeing your business as something bigger, and it starts feeling more like a company.


Phase 5: Founder

What’s your ultimate vision?

You could choose to stay in the CEO role, OR you may realize that eventually your business will be better served by replacing yourself with a new CEO.

That means that after scaling the business to a certain point, you step out of the CEO role and into the founder role. 

Sure, you’ve always been the founder, but in this phase, you exclusively serve in that founder role. 

This means you own the business but hand over the day-to-day CEO responsibilities. 


Which Phase Are You In?

Here’s a quick recap of the five different phases of a business owner.

  1. Solopreneur
  2. Manager
  3. Operator
  4. CEO
  5. Founder

At every phase, you need to be willing to let go of what worked before so you can move into the next phase.

This might mean you need to change up your team, fire a freelancer you enjoyed working with, or find someone to replace you as CEO.

So take time to learn from the phase you’re currently in, do everything you need to move to the next phase. As time goes by, you earn the role you want for yourself as your business grows.

Next Steps

  • Sign up for The Brief HERE and get weekly CEO-level strategies and resources to help you scale.

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