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Understanding the life cycle and mindset of Queensland small businesses

This report looked at the life cycle and the mindset of small businesses to help inform how support, programs and policies are designed to better meet the needs of Queensland small businesses.

Report highlights

The Queensland Small Business Commissioner engaged Central Queensland University to review international business research and undertake primary research to help improve our understanding of the life cycle and mindset of Queensland small businesses.

“Improving our understanding allows government to tailor opportunities and support to help Queensland small businesses thrive.”

Dominique Lamb – Small Business Commissioner

Life cycle of a small business

The research found that the life cycle of a small business is best described in terms of four simple stages: initiation, growth, stabilisation, and exit.

Businesses often move back and forth between growth and stabilisation, in response to internal and external opportunities and threats. Together these two stages form the operational or ‘maturity’ (or operational) period of the business.

Small businesses value stability highly. They acknowledge that they need to grow so that they can achieve stability, but stability is the aim.

Life cycle mindset report
stability mindset report

The appeal of stability

  • It is challenging to run a business. Some small business owners talk of the inescapability and intensity of their role.
  • As a result, small businesses strive for stability. When they have stability, they have a platform from which they can pursue options.
  • If stability is threatened by changing circumstances, the business reverts to the growth stage. Whether the growth is positive or negative, the aim is to return to the stabilisation stage.

Mindset of small businesses

Queensland small businesses rated customers as their strongest priority. Most were monitoring competitor offerings and open to innovation but not highly enthusiastic about it.

Most of small businesses had a low appetite for risk-taking even if there was a prospect of high returns. They were only mildly proactive and did not tend to use analytics and research to inform decisions.

While mindset was found to be relatively consistent across the life cycle, the shared mindset shows the areas small businesses emphasise and the areas where further support may be needed.


The research of the mindset of Queensland small businesses allowed us to create six typical Queensland small business owner personas, distinguished by their different mindsets.

The personas are useful because they provide insights into the different attitudes, expectations, priorities, and preferences of Queensland small businesses.

The personas include: the competitor, the traditionalist, the soloist, the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, and the vigilant operator. These can help us to tailor how we deliver services and support.

Access the Snapshot

For a quick snapshot of the Mindset Report

Access the Full Report

We welcome you to read the report, share it with small businesses and across your networks.

  • Central Queensland University research team: A/Professor Olav Muurlink, Dr Rhonda Boorman, Nabil Awan, Dr Elizabeth Voneiff Marx, Dr Manjo Oysen, Professor Quamrul Alam.
  • Office of the Queensland Small Business Commissioner editing team: Luke Forster, Rebekah Godbold, Kaela Smith, Felicity Ivers.
  • Support crew: Tondo Creative (graphic design), Mettro (web design).