Change is a tricky thing. If you are someone contemplating the changes that will occur by becoming a successful small business owner, it will be helpful for you to have a bird’s eye view of where you are along the continuum.
To that end, Dr. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed a Transtheoretical Model of Change in 1982 that has been applied to everything from weight loss to drug addiction with great success and acclaim. Though their model has never before been applied to those considering starting up a successful small business, it is a very relevant model that will help take the pressure off individuals thinking they should be further along than where they are, and provide a compassionate understanding of where each person is along the scale.
Three Great Things about The Stages of Change
Prochaska and DiClemente’s Transtheoretical Model of Change identifies five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
The Precontemplation Stage (Not Currently Considering Change)
This stage could really be called “the precursor-to-change” stage. This is the stage when individuals may not even be thinking about becoming small business owners. In fact, in this stage, they may not even be aware that it would be beneficial for them to make a change, though other individuals around them may be thinking that they should. This stage’s motto is: Ignorance is bliss.
How to know if you are in The Precontemplation Stage:
1.You’re not really thinking about starting up a small business.
2.You are basically okay with how things are.
3.Others may be voicing their concerns about the hours you are keeping, the stress you seem to be under, or how much you need to take a vacation.
Those in this stage do not intend to take action within the next 6 months.
The Contemplation Stage (Thinking about Change and Researching Options)
In the Contemplation Stage, individuals are aware that a change is needed and they actually desire to make a change. Although they are seriously thinking about change, they have no clear plan of action because they are feeling ambivalent about change. This stage’s motto is: Just sitting on the fence waiting to see what will come along.
How to know if you are in The Contemplation Stage:
1. You find yourself doing on-line research, and thinking about what it would be like to be a small business owner.
2. You seek out the perspective of others who have “been there, done that.”
3. You find yourself attracted to journal articles about entrepreneurship and small business ownership.
Those in this stage are considering taking action within the next 6 months.
The Preparation Stage (Ready for Change and Making Plans)
This stage of change is readily apparent by the amount of activity, decisions, and overt action that is taking place in preparation for a small business start up. This is a time of planning how and when the start up process will begin. This stage’s motto is: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
How to know if you are in The Preparation Stage:
1. Your small business start up coach has become your best friend.
2. Your white board is getting a daily workout as you look at every aspect of small business ownership.
3. You are regularly experiencing both excitement and fear.
Individuals in this stage are intending to take action within the next month.
The Action Stage (Making Change and Taking Charge)
This stage is characterized by a considerable amount of steady, forward movement. All the necessary paper work is filled out, business checking accounts opened, company name registered, business cards selected, web site developed, and strategic action plans mapped out. The motto for this stage is: Carpe Deum.
How to know if you are in The Action Stage:
1. You are in full-out action mode.
2. You’re spending most of your day focused on your new small business, and loving it.
3. You are committed to seeing your actions through.
Individuals in this stage are taking action.
The Maintenance Stage (Continuing Forward Movement toward Goal)
By this stage, individuals are firmly ensconced in the forward movement and momentum of launching their new small business. Continued commitment to sustaining the forward movement of their small business success is the goal of this stage. The motto of this stage is: Westward, ho!
How to know if you are in The Maintenance Stage:
1. Your business is running smoothly.
2. You have begun cycling back through the stages of change to further develop and expand the growth of your small business.
3. You are actively looking for new opportunities for change and growth.
Individuals in this stage are continuing momentum.
In Praise of Prochaska and DiClemente’s Transtheoretical Model of Change
As has been demonstrated, Prochaska and DiClemente’s Transtheoretical Model can be easily adapted to the stages of change that occur in small business start ups. Individuals considering whether or not they are ready to become small business owners need no longer be left with the question of “if.” Rather, they can easily find a clear answer to where they are along the change continuum. As a result, they themselves become powerful and effective agents for change. What’s more, they learn that change, while life-altering, can be life-affirming and life-enhancing.