Getting to the Success-Growth Substage in VFW Post Development

By Charles M. Pickett

As the VFW New Haven celebrated its 5th anniversary on June 11, 2020, we’ve begun to consider a bigger vision for our post as we progress through the “The Five Stages of Small Business Growth,” as detailed in the Harvard Business Review (Churchill, Lewis).

Currently (July 2020), the post is probably in Stage III: Success-Disengagement substage. The post has attained economic health as evidenced by growing savings, has sufficient size, has functional managers, and the current strategy is to essentially maintain the status quo. A hallmark of this stage is the disengagement of the founders, where they start new enterprises or pursue other hobbies and other outside interests—like starting the “new century” American Legion New Haven Post 210.

However, the VFW New Haven is arguably dropping back to Stage II: Survival where it will get “marginal returns on invested time and capital.” Evidence of this shift is the loss of a dozen members from the prior year and the failure to complete all the programs required for All-State and All-American status for the first time in four years.

How can the VFW New Haven move from Disengagement to Stage III: Success-Growth?

According to the article, “in the Success-Growth substage, the owner consolidates the company and marshals resources for growth. The owner takes the cash and the established borrowing power of the company and risks it all in financing growth.”

Additionally, the “owners”:

  • Keep the basic business profitable
  • Develop managers to meet the needs of the growing business
  • Drive to professional management
  • Install systems with attention to forthcoming needs
  • Engage in operational planning with budgets
  • Engage in detailed strategic planning

If these interventions are successful, then the company proceeds to Stage IV: Take-off where the key problems are how to grow rapidly and finance that growth.

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