As the long, gray winter throws in the towel, at last, we’re treated to one of Nature’s finest shows – the arrival of spring – as the cycle of the seasons turns in its predictable and expected way. It’s always a thrill to see the flowers bursting up out of the ground along with the reappearance of butterflies as they come out of their chrysalises  – even though we know that winter will inevitably be back.

The phases of the business storm cycle are as predictable as those of the changing seasons. We enter the start-up phase – then, the fast growth phase of the Tornado hits as our product or service suddenly catches on with customers. And as much as we wished for all of this growth, we’re never quite prepared for it when it hits. Suddenly, our business triangle – our people, processes, and technology – are all strained to the max, trying to keep up. Sales are booming, but production is lagging – and the back office is overwhelmed by the stresses of success.

In the end, though, a Tornado never lasts forever. It’s a cycle, remember, and the very nature of a cycle is that nothing is permanent; things just keep moving around the circle. You can’t hold on to spring forever and keep winter from coming – and the caterpillar that hatches out of the egg can’t remain a caterpillar forever, no matter how hard it tries.

Even though your business will be challenged by the demands put on it by the Tornado, eventually it will blow by, and the next phase will begin – the Avalanche in which shrinking margins and high inventory threaten whatever profits you made before. On its heels will come the consolidation phase, and a chance to fix the broken processes and technology that proved inadequate to your Tornado. Don’t neglect those repairs, because just as the spring will always return, your business will see another Tornado as the business storm cycle turns. Preparation now will allow you to weather the storm when it springs up.