The Five Stages of Change for Small Business Owners, By Susan L. Reid, DMA

Posted by Susan L. Reid

Change is a tricky thing. Some of us like change. Others of us don't. Some of us like some change some of the time. Others of us will do all that we can to maintain the status quo and cling to what is known and familiar. Yet, change is. Change happens.

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. So, too, if you are a small business coach working with clients who are in the process of starting up their own businesses, it will be good for you to have a way to determine which stage of change they are in so you can plan an effective start-up coaching strategy to meet each client's needs.

To that end, Dr. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed the Transtheoretical Model of Change in 1982 that has been applied to everything from weight loss to drug addiction with great success and acclaim. The difference between this model of change and other models is that this one doesn't tell you how to change or what you must do to change. Rather, it describes the stages of change so that individuals and those in the helping professions (that would include business coaches) can see which stage they are in.

Though Prochaska and DiClemente's 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 it will 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 first great thing about this model is that each stage is considered a step, and each step is meant to be taken in sequence.
  • The second great thing about this model is that it is cyclical.
  • The third great thing about this model is that there are no prescribed limits as to how long individuals should take to move from one stage to the next, nor are there any rules as to how long the overall process should take.

The Five Stages

Keep in mind that change is a process, not an event. Just "follow the Yellow Brick Road."

1. The Precontemplation Stage (Not Currently Considering Change)

This stage could really be called "the precursor-to-change" stage. This is the pre-small business start-up 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.

Precontemplation is the pre-change stage where, as of yet, there has been no personally convincing reason for change. There may just be the niggling odd sensation that change is in the air. Content to keep the status quo and with no compelling reason to actually think about making a change, 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 six months and have a decided lack of readiness to do so.

2. 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. It is a time of inward seeking and searching.

How to know if you are in the Contemplation Stage:

  1. You find yourself going to the library, doing online 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" and consider their advice.
  3. You find yourself attracted to magazines and online journals about entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

Those in this stage are considering taking action within the next six months.

3. 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. During this stage, individuals look outside themselves for assistance or help, and ask, "What steps do I need to take to make this happen?"

This is a time of exploring options and planning how and when the start-up process will begin. This is not a time for quick decisions. Instead, it is a time for thinking, talking, drawing, writing and then doing it all again. It is a time to look at every angle, to weigh the pros and cons, and to connect the dots to successful small business ownership. This is the perfect time to hire a small business start-up coach and get the transition wheel primed and pumped. 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 or mind mapping software is getting a daily workout as you look at every aspect of small business ownership.
  3. You are regularly experiencing both excitement and fear, although you can't tell how much of either you are feeling at any given time.

Individuals in this stage are intending to take action within the next month.

4. The Action Stage (Making Change and Taking Charge)

This stage is characterized by a considerable amount of steady, forward movement. The planning that was done in the previous stage is being put into action plans that are well-conceived and formulated. All the necessary paper work is filled out, business checking accounts opened, company name registered, business cards selected, website developed and strategic action plans mapped out.

This is the time when businesses are started and launched, when new ways of being in the world are experienced and when excitement and satisfaction are high. The motto for this stage is: Carpe Diem.

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. Each new day brings something new for you to do, be or have.
  4. You are committed to seeing your actions through.

Individuals in this stage are taking action.

5. The Maintenance Stage (Continuing Forward Movement towards Goal)

By this stage, individuals are firmly ensconced in the forward movement and momentum of launching and servicing their new small business. Every day there is a new opportunity for growth and expansion, for learning something new and meeting new individuals. 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. Though it doesn't tell you how or why individuals change, it does accurately pinpoint where an individual is in the change process. The reason why this is so attractive is that change can be viewed on an individual basis, according to each individual's needs.

Individuals considering whether 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.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide ( 2008, Volume 4, Issue 2). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Susan L. Reid, DMA, is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting up businesses. She specializes in taking the fear out of starting up a business. Susan is the author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success. Her website is Alkamae.com. Learn more about Susan in the WABC Member Directory.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Become a Dr. in Professional Studies (Business Coaching)

Posted by WABC

At WABC, we are serious about remaining a leading international authority on business coaching. Being a leader means blending excellence and innovation, a mixture we've aimed for in developing our suite of professional degrees and designations exclusively for business coaches.

That same mixture is at the heart of our latest development, the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching). This first-ever international doctoral degree for business coaches is now the highest rung on the ladder of lifelong learning and achievement in our emerging profession.

We are honored to offer this fully accredited doctorate through our UK-based partner Middlesex University, an international leader in developing work-based programs. The doctoral program is open to WABC Full Members who hold either the Chartered Business Coach™ (ChBC™) designation or the Master of Arts in Professional Development (Business Coaching) degree.

What Is the DProf in Business Coaching?

The Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching) is the professional equivalent of a PhD. It involves the same assessment methods and criteria as a PhD, and graduates of both programs can call themselves "Dr.," but there are some key distinctions. Unlike the PhD, the DProf in Business Coaching focuses on practice-related research. It places business coaches and their practice at the center of the research project, enabling candidates to undertake research that's unique to them and their work environment.

The DProf in Business Coaching is for advanced business coaches who bring the highest level of professionalism and critical analysis to their practice. Here are just five benefits of earning this superior degree:

  • It tells clients and the marketplace that you've attained the highest professional mastery in our field.
  • Because this doctorate is practice-based, what you learn will elevate your client service and your career.
  • You'll learn from the world's best minds in business coaching.
  • The degree's multidisciplinary approach to research will broaden your horizons and expand your career options.

Your research will influence organizations as well as business coaching overall, making you a recognized thought leader in our field.

What's Involved?

Earning the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching) typically takes three to four years. In Stage 1 you critically reflect on your practice and design a work-based research project. In Stage 2 you conduct the project, complete a research report and go through an oral examination. If successful, you earn the degree as well as the title "Dr."

There are no residency requirements for the DProf in Business Coaching. You will be registered with Middlesex University as a work-based student and will enjoy the full privileges of student status.

Is It for You?

You can apply for the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching) if you meet these requirements:

  • You're an advanced practitioner of business coaching (external or internal coaching or a combination of both) who is actively publishing in the field, developing practice for other coaches or working with senior managers and business leaders. Your CV must describe and document your experience and advanced practice.
  • You hold either WABC's ChBC™ designation or Master of Arts in Professional Development (Business Coaching) degree.
  • You're a Full Member of WABC in good standing and have maintained all the membership standards.


Get more details. Read more about the Doctorate in Professional Studies (Business Coaching), or the ChBC and MA programs that are the first step towards it.

Get in touch. Contact us to discuss enrolling.


If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

From Average to Awesome! by Ken Ingram

Posted by Ken Ingram

I just received my monthly Toastmaster Magazine and it was a great reminder of many key issues that are affecting all of us both personally and professionally. Many of us read articles or books and find them of interest but how many of us actually put the new knowledge into practice. This is why coaching and training is so effective because it allows our clients the opportunity to learn and practice the new knowledge and skills.

We know from studies that it takes 60 to 90 days to change specific ATTITUDES, SKILLS and HABITS

Attitudes, skills and habits represent at least 85% of a person's ability to be successful., so this is why I often talk to my clients about You Inc. because so much of their success depends on what they do with their key talents and abilities. As coaches, this applies to us as well. In some cases it is natural talent that we are seeking to enhance and in other cases it is a skill or talent we wish to develop.

In the book You, Inc. by Burke Hedges, he talks about finding the CEO within and the 10 simple principals, to dramatically increase your fair market value. As a coach, would increasing your fair market value and that of your business enable you to succeed in creating winning conditions for both, your business and for your customers? In today’s business environment it is not so much what you are doing, but what you are not doing that in the end can have the greatest impact on your business.

Where would some of the top professional athletes be if they did not constantly challenge themselves? Professional athletes recognize the need to have someone in their corner pushing them to do the things most people feel is impossible. To Quote Bob Gainey former GM of the Canadian hockey cub Montreal Canada. We all want the team to get better, so the individuals have to get better. You can go and get other players or you can get the players you have to play better”.  As Mr. Gainey points out, we need to use our talents and abilities more effectively in order to get the results that will grow the business and make us more competitive than the competition. We can all learn much from the sports world, but learning without putting the new knowledge into practice is of little use.

As coaches, we should all have a coach because simply telling or suggesting to our clients that they would benefit from having a coach may be ignored if we as coaches are not putting into practice what we hold to be true. The bottom-line is everyone needs a coach because it is so easy to blame our circumstances on events or issues we consider outside of our control.

John Miller the author of the QBQ (The Question Behind the Question) would say personal accountability begins with you and in many cases ends with you as well. So that being said, to increase my value, I will now re-read my Toastmaster Magazine and then with the help of my coach set some goals to put some of the new ideas into practice. I will share this new knowledge with my clients with the goal of helping them to increase their value.

This is how you will go from an Average Coach to an Awesome Coach.

“I discovered at an early age that I missed the shots I did not take” - Wayne Gretzky.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Where’s the Evidence? First Steps into the Literature (Part 2 of 2) By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

So what makes you think you can do research?

In my last column, we considered how we could sort the wheat from the chaff when we were looking at research. The idea of perspective, yours and your clients', came into sharp focus. But here's the rub, it may be that you can't find research studies that address the questions that are important to you in your practice. We are an emerging profession and our literature is only just developing. So it is quite possible that the area of practice that is your passion, and gives you most pause for thought, has not come under a researcher's scrutiny. The sense of frustration this produces can drive you to consider doing research yourself!

This need not be out of the question even for the busy practitioner. Other professions such as nursing and education have a strong tradition of practitioner research and we can learn a lot from them in terms of how best to frame that research and report it. But what makes practitioner research different and how does it relate to conventional research?

I think we can all agree that the main purpose of research is to create new knowledge and understanding i.e., to help us know something we did not know previously. Conventional research has an emphasis on that "finding out," and there is little, if any, consideration of "using it." In practitioner research the "finding out" is there, but there is also another and very necessary purposeto try and put that new knowledge into practice. In effect, the separation between research and practice disappears in practitioner research. McLeod, in his book Doing Counseling Research, defines practitioner research as1;

"Research carried out by practitioners for the purpose of advancing their own practice."

There are certain general characteristics of practitioner research (adapted from Shaw2):

  • The research questions, aims and outcomes are determined by the practitioners themselves i.e.; they control it.
  • The research is usually designed to have a benefit or an impact that is immediate and direct.
  • It focuses on the professional's own practice and/or that of his/her immediate peers.
  • It is small scale and short term.
  • Usually it will be self-contained and not part of a larger research program.
  • Data collection and management is typically carried out as a lone activity.
  • The focus is not restricted. While it will commonly be evaluative, it may be descriptive, developmental or analytical.

When you are considering your own research, it is clear that the overall size and content of the research has to be appropriate to you as the practitioner, i.e., something that can be undertaken and managed whilst working in practice. Indeed, it is one of the main challenges for practitioner researchers to keep the scale of their inquiries appropriate to their time and resources.

It is worth the investment, however, as there are also benefits for you as a practitioner. There is a whole body of literature considering practitioner research as a form of professional development. As soon as we start really inquiring into our work, our professional practice changes as we notice and reflect upon it in more depth. It is when you research that you are effectively putting your theoretical basis forward and deciding to review it. This makes it, in effect; a deeply personal experience and your own constructs become an important consideration for the would-be researcher.

So how do you start? There is a plethora of books you can turn to on research methodologies, but remember that you will also be playing to your strengths. As coaches you will be bringing to your research the wealth of attributes you bring to your practice. These include an abiding sense of curiosity and interest–the mainstay of any exploration with a client. We also need to be curious and baffled about unanswered questions, keen to experiment and explore, critically engaged in our work and take satisfaction in the ethical and rigorous application of our knowledge. Thus professional coaches already have the key qualities of a researcher–even if they haven't quite gotten around to doing it yet!

Within business coaching, our literature is relatively young with only a small number of academic researchers in the field. Practitioner researchers can therefore make a real contribution to defining the research agenda for the profession by helping to identify what the real questions are for practice. This call has obviously been taken up. When we review conferences and journals we can see a range of practitioner researchers publishing their work.

But there is a trap we can fall into that will make any potential contribution defunct–trying to fool ourselves into thinking that as it is "just" practitioner research we can throw out the issues of robust, transparent design and reporting. "Just" practitioner research should be held in as high regard as conventional research, through the unique perspective it provides for us as a profession. It should be taken seriously enough to be judged by the same standards of rigor and quality.

As practitioners "professional opinions," "observations over time" or "practice cases" make interesting reads that may spark reflections and analysis, but these are not research unless they are undertaken with the critical analysis and appraisal of true inquiry. However, it can be erroneously described and considered research.

In a recent example, a colleague was disappointed when attending a research symposium to discover it was an exchange of views between three professionals on a particular issue. This is, of course, interesting in itself and the dialogue could have formed part of a research inquiry, but it was not research as presented! This suspension of judgment is not restricted to practitioner research, but can be part of our response to eminent members of our field. Let's guard against it and consider everyone's contributions by the same yardstick so we achieve "evidence-based practice" and not "eminence-based practice!"

Worth Reading

No specific journals or articles this time as I would like to recommend a search of the range of websites out there for the would-be researcher. One worth bookmarking is:

Intute: a free online service providing you with access to the very best web resources for education and research. Run by a group of UK universities, it provides a good starting portal with a virtual training suite for research methods and much, much more. Not specific for coaching yet, but there is enough in social sciences to keep everyone happy. Have a look and play in http://www.intute.ac.uk/.

1 McLeod, J. 1994. Doing Counseling Research. London: Sage.

2 Shaw, I. 2003. "Qualitative research and outcomes in health, social work and education." Qualitative Research 3 (1): 57-77.


This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (October 2008, Volume 4, Issue 3). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.