What’s the Next Step for Your Business?

Take your business from simple startup to multimillion-dollar enterprise

Are you in a rut with your business? Are you hesitating over whether it’s the right time to hire a salesperson, promote a member of your crew, or finally get off the truck yourself? These are part of the natural growing pains of running a successful business, a feeling that Brandon Vaughn—owner of Wise Coatings and chief strategist of Conquer Coaching—knows all too well.

Vaughn says there are five stages for every business owner, ranging from a startup one-man operation to an executive running multiple businesses.

“If you think about it, this whole journey is the process of promoting yourself from a painter to a CEO,” Vaughn says. “You’re kind of climbing your own corporate ladder.”

Wondering where you fall on that ladder? Here’s the five stages of business—and instructions for how to move to the next stage when you’re ready.

Stage One

What It Looks Like: In this stage, the business owner is primarily focused on doing all of the work. They are often starting out just by themselves—or with a single co-owner or employee—and have to wear a variety of hats to keep the business running, from billing to marketing to selling to painting.

Next Steps: There’s a limit on how much one person can do by themselves—and a limit to how big a business like that can grow. Vaughn recommends hiring an employee who will become your apprentice. Let them shadow you through every part of the job. Eventually, Vaughn says, “have your assistant eventually migrate into a lead who can replace you” on the jobsite, freeing you up to handle more business tasks.

Stage Two

What It Looks Like: The assistant has risen to the challenge and taken over as a lead on job sites, allowing the business owner to completely get out of the field. The owner is now focused on answering and returning phone calls, setting up jobs, budgeting, and other office tasks.

Next Steps: You already hired someone to replace you on the job site; now it’s time to hire someone to replace you in the office. Vaughn notes some painters struggle to hire non-revenue-generating employees—employees who aren’t on the jobsite, so their hours aren’t being billed to clients—but says, “Sometimes these employees are the biggest leverage to help your business get to the next level.”

Stage Three

What It Looks Like: The business owner has hired a few non-revenue-generating employees. This might include an admin manager—to answer phones, schedule jobs and estimates, and handle payroll—and a foreman or production manager, who handles prep and customer relations for upcoming projects.

Next Steps: Start interviewing for your first salesperson. You may not get it right on the first try, but hiring the right salesperson will propel your business’ growth and take pressure off of you to bring in all the revenue. Vaughn says, “There’s five behavioral attributes that I look for in a really good salesperson: high proactivity, high aggression, low self-control, high creativity, and high criticality.”

Stage Four

What It Looks Like: The business owner has hired their first salesperson and may be in the process of hiring more. With a sales force focused on bringing in jobs, the owner is freed up to focus on marketing and overall business organization. Vaughn likens the owner at this point to the general manager of a sports team; their focus is on vision and overall optimization, rather than day-to-day tasks.

Next Steps: It’s time to replace yourself one last time. Look into hiring a GM or CEO who can run the business’ operations for you. This will let you transition into becoming an executive who manages multiple businesses, not just this one.

Stage Five

What It Looks Like: If the business owner was the general manager before, now they’re the team owner. They still regularly check in with their GM or CEO on the state of the business, but no longer have a major role in operating the business. They are usually paid in profit distributions rather than a salary. If this sounds boring, it shouldn’t; the business owner is now freed up to start or invest in more businesses, expanding their influence and earning potential.

Next Steps: This is the ultimate goal for most business owners. There’s not another stage after this, though you never have to stop expanding your business. Open multiple locations. Expand into new markets. Vaughn says, “There’s unlimited growth potential of whatever you want to do with your company, however far you want to grow and build it.”


As someone who’s gone through all five stages with his own business, Vaughn hopes contractors will be able to experience that same growth for themselves.

For more on each of the five stages, check out the full conversation with Vaughn in the PRO+ Business Training Series webinar, “The Stages of Business Growth Every Painting Company Needs to Know.”