Editor’s note: Serial entrepreneur, blogger and author Joe Procopio wraps up a multi-part series on what he calls “The Five Stages of Startup.” Part five focuses on exit, failure, graduation, next and giving back. (The four previous posts are also linked with this one for your convenience.)

DURHAM, N.C. – The five stages of startup I’m discussing are not THE five stages of startup. They’re just landmarks, broken down and generalized into something that we can all hopefully use as a guide, not gospel.

This is the final stage of the generalized startup timeline, and with this, we’ve now covered the entire roadmap, from humble beginning to glorious end. Level 1: The Jump is the period of time when you have a great idea that will become a great product. Level 2: Start is when the company is formed, it figures out how to operate, and launches that great product. Level 3: The Journey is about running and growing your company and selling your product. Level 4: The Grind covers all the ups and downs along the way.

But all good things…

The End can happen a few different ways. There are happy endings, horrible endings, and endings where you just shrug your shoulders and move on.

You shouldn’t really do a lot of planning for the end. Your goal is to build an incredible business, one that you want to work on every day for the rest of your life. But let’s face it, you’re an entrepreneur, and you might find that there are other ideas you’d like to pursue — ideas that may be totally different from the one that got you where you are today.

If you’ve done your startup right, there will be several knocks of opportunity at your door, people who want to buy everything you’ve built, and you’ll need to listen to most of those offers. If you’ve done it wrong, failure — inevitable, heartbreaking failure — will come calling instead, and that’s a call you’ve got to answer too.

Oh, and I need to tell you that you can do everything right and failure might just show up anyway. He’s kind of a jerk.

Regardless of how you close the curtain on your startup, the end is also a new beginning, and you’ll need to know how to start over.

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