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Entrepreneurial Success Is a 5-Stage Process

June 30, 2017

Building a business is like building almost anything else. You must first start with a vision of what you want. And then you need a good plan.

It takes a solid plan to move your vision – your business dream – from an idea to a success. But according to Wolfgang Koester ’91, CEO of FiREapps, sometimes the best plans come with the clarity of hindsight.

FiREapps is a leading provider of corporate currency analytics and FX exposure management software-as-a-service. Koester co-founded the company in 2000 after thirteen years at the helm of a quantitative currency management company.

In his July 11 presentation, part of the Thunderbird/Phoenix Business Journal Global Speaker Series, Koester will offer an overview of the five key stages that entrepreneurs must negotiate when transitioning a business from an idea to liquidity. He’ll share 15-20 specific takeaways, kind of a playbook drawing on learnings from his own 32-year career, including launching two high-tech businesses.

“I would have loved to know these things on Day One,” he says.

Global Speaker Series: Wolfgang Koester on Five Stages of Entrepreneurial Success

The plan in 5 key stages 

“It’s important to talk about specifics. Leaders of even the most innovative companies still need to focus on the general matrix of running a company properly,” says Koester, a 1991 graduate of Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Specifics include how to best leverage technology, determine pricing, enhance strategies, and build the business through distribution. And where some leaders may believe attaining business maturity signals success, Koester points out that the ‘maturity’ stage may actually present the greatest challenges of all, as entrepreneurs seek to best position their organizations for hyper growth.

 “One of the worst things people do is say, ‘I want to start a business.’ They should be saying, ‘I want to solve a problem and get paid for it.’” – Click to tweet

The plan Koester will share during his Global Speaker Series keynote is focused, structured, and peppered with anecdotes and lessons from his most recent journey taking FiREapps from a consulting firm to a SaaS company. The five stages are:

  1. Getting started
  2. Products – development and release
  3. Distribution/channels
  4. Maturity
  5. Planning for liquidity

Within each stage, Koester explores three subtopics: 1) What are the focal points within that stage? 2) Who is the important team member to bring in at that stage? and 3) What are the learnings at this stage; what do we take away from it?

“To find success, an entrepreneur needs to recognize the five stages and be able to get the most out of each one,” says Koester. For example, it’s important to find a partner early who brings different strengths to the business. “It may be fun to work with your friends, but not if they are just like you.”

“If you look at the most successful companies, you may remember one partner, but actually there were two partners. One was much more product-oriented and the other much more sales/marketing-oriented.” – Click to tweet

It’s always a good time to embrace the plan

“I’ve seen it over and over: Successful people reinvent themselves every seven years,” Koester says. “The environment changes, the business changes, the market changes. It’s healthy to reinvent yourself and your business.”

Koester says his five-stage plan is helpful for someone already moving down that road of rediscovery or just starting to think about reinventing themselves; someone who’s been in business for 25 years or just starting out.

“I wish someone would have helped lay out a plan when I started out.”

 Mr. Koester’s lecture is free and open to all on July 11. Keynote at 6 p.m. followed by networking reception. On Thunderbird Campus and via Livestream.

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