The Four Stages of Development
“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment,” Steven Covey once said. “The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase, ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.’” After elaborating on the others, he concluded, “The need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”
I couldn’t agree with Covey more. Legacy is one of our primal drives; what it means and how it is expressed differs from person to person, but its significance doesn’t vary. I clearly remember when this principle really dawned on me. I was sitting in a seminar room that was large enough to hold 1,500 people and there was not an empty seat in the place. It was understandable; the crowd at the Direct Selling Association (DSA) convention was about to hear from one of the Babe Ruths in the pantheon of business, not just the DSA.
He stood for everything that was right and purposeful about being an entrepreneur; yet as usual, there were those who didn’t grasp his place in the history of the free enterprise system. Richard (Rich) DeVos, the co-founder and the rainmaker for Amway Corporation and whose family owns the Orlando Magic, was about to take the stage.
Never Losing His Edge
Amway is the single largest brand in the direct sales industry, producing $8 billion in worldwide sales. At the time I was CEO of an up and coming direct sales company that had grown from a half million in sales to $35 million annually, in three and half years. Though I deeply admired him, I wasn’t expecting much. I had met Rich DeVos, who was then almost 80, and assumed he was out of touch with the industry, but I was about to be humbled.
After being introduced by his son Dick, DeVos simply told his story, commenting, “I have told my story for fifty years. Can you tell your story? The number one fundamental in business is – tell your story!”
One would think that DeVos’ story would be all about the industry, but it was all about life, because that is what business is – life. If there is anything I took away from his presentation that day and made sure it became part of my life philosophy, it was his explanation on the four stages of development.
Your personal ambitions, your relationships, organizations, churches, schools, communities and governments all go through each of these stages. No one is immune to any stage; the secret is identification and knowing where you are so you can take corrective measures.
The four stages of development are:
The Build/Create Stage
This is where you want to be, because it is full of excitement and joy. You make things happen in this stage; in fact, I believe you are intended, by your creator, to be creative. This is why starting a business is so exciting and why we determine to work through the challenges – it is in our DNA. In visiting with Bernie Simpkins, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist as he went into retirement from the oil distribution business he commented, “It is so much easier to build wealth than preserve it, because building is positive and the act of preservation is all about avoiding risk; it’s managing the negative.”
The Management Stage
As passion starts to wane, it is easy to fall for the misconception that you can manage others to do the building and creating for you. You put your relationship or business on autopilot and move from growth to maintenance, which really means a protective or a defensive posture versus a positive offensive posture. Inevitably if you do not pull yourself out of the Management Stage, you will fall into stage three.
The Defender of No Growth Stage
In this stage you find and reiterate all the good reasons why your business or relationships are no longer building, creating or growing. We started SCB Marketing in 2006 and never even knew there was a recession until it was already over. If you stay in the Defender of No Growth stage, you will eventually slip into the final fatal stage.
The Blame Stage
Here you start shifting responsibility to others for why you cannot build and create; now your business is very close to closing up. What happens in relationships when the excuses turn into blame? Divorce! Much of our frustration with government is that it is constantly looking for scapegoats instead of solutions.
These are the four principles Rich DeVos shared with me (I felt like I was the only person in the room at the time) and I use them to evaluate where I am every day. It is the legacy left to one young upstart that he’ll never forget.