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Earn Your Business Black Belt: 5 Lessons in Mastery

Many small businesses fail today without the process or discipline to succeed.  When all the excuse-making is said and done, do you have the will and the skill to survive and thrive?

A few weeks ago I watched the culmination of 4 years worth of work that started at the ripe old age of six.  Huh?  As impossible as it seems, 4th graders can set a goal, focus on it (kind of), and progressively realize it one step at a time.  I’m talking about my son Jack, who just achieved a black belt in Karate.  This was a big deal to all the kids and adults in his class, reminding me of achieving my Eagle Scout as a teenager, and this dad was beaming!

These guys were unbelievable, and on the grueling 6 hour day of final testing and ultimate celebration, it was amazing to see not only Jack but everyone in the class crackle with a precision you wouldn’t think possible.

So how’s this apply to you as a business owner?  Here are 5 Lessons in Black Belt Mastery for your business.

Bite Size Progressive Goals

Do you know how many colored belts you need to get through in order to get a black belt? 13 of them!  Somewhere one of Gary Larson’s talking animals is saying “What the?!” 

There is white, white & yellow, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, purple & yellow, brown, brown & yellow, red, red & black (danbo), and finally, black belt.

Each one of these is a little step along the way, a bite size goal that makes the end goal more attainable.  It takes a few years, and the Masters of Karate realize that.

Your business needs big, hairy, audacious goals to be certain.  It gives you the brass ring to strive for.  But break that down into process steps that demonstrate little successes, advances toward the end goal.

I help companies with virtual sales management of underperforming sales teams.  Instead of telling the sales guy he needs to make 2 sales a week or he’s fired, I first set up a system where he culls 120 suspects a week, then 8-10 prospects, and finally, 2 sales a week.  It’s important to establish the belief that if he gets his 120 suspects, success becomes a matter of time.  This leads to lower human resource cost, less turnover, and most importantly, more sales.

Follow a Process

Processes are like noses in business.  Everybody has one.  Guess what?  I don’t have to have the strongest sense of smell in the world to know when something stinks, I just need to use the nose I have.

So it is with processes.  Jack’s black belt training requires a philosophy, knowledge of seemingly irrelevant things, and little memorized routines called forms that the students use to develop physical eye to hand coordination and control.  Does Jack’s school use the best process to train Karate?  Who knows and who cares!  They use and follow a process and stick to it.

In the sales management example above, those mini-steps come with little processes that include combing the internet for leads, telephone call scripts, presentation methods and the like.  I don’t care if it’s the best process in the world and neither do the companies who hire me.  I step into an vacuum void of performance, and my processes are better than the ones that the sales team doesn’t have.

Practice Until It Hurts

Many a night my son got home from Karate at 9 pm, and then we fought our way (literally) through his homework until 10:30 or so.  Ever try to keep a 9 or 10 year old focused on academics at 10:00 at night?

The goal progression and training was so focused and disciplined, it required countless hours to achieve mastery at each of the belt levels I described.  Credit the little guy, he put in the time with a little arm twisting.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I learned it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any discipline, be it athletics or computer programming.  True success outliers are those that either by luck or by plan find a way to get those 10,000 hours under their belts.

What about you?  What does your company stake it’s claim on being the best at?  Have you put in your time?  Can you?  You need to practice your business guitar until your fingers bleed, my friend.  The sales guys aren’t going to get good at making calls until they are making 125 a week or more, each and every week, over and over again.  Lessons from a 10 year old.

Get Cheerleaders

Whenever the Karate students test for their next belt, be it a brown belt or a 4th degree black belt, the Dojo is filled with rabid fans, both other students, parents and friends.  It gets loud, with board breaking being the culmination of the demonstration.  The students punch and kick boards to raucous applause, and you can feel the energy buoying the little ones who may miss on the first few tries.  In fact, I’ve seen 6 years olds kick a board until his foot was throbbing in pain until he broke it, limping off the mat to a standing O.

In your small business, you may do all the work but don’t go it alone.  If your spouse is not on board and wants you to go get a real job, it is extremely hard to succeed in spite of that lack of support.  But, if he or she is cheering you on every time you fail, you’ll find a way to smash your way to the finish line too, even while limping across with a sweaty smile on your face.

Fail Your Way to Success

How many of Jack’s class failed doing their forms or breaking boards or sparring?  All of them, many times over.  Gentle correction from the instructor, try again.  As part of Jack’s final black belt testing, he had to come up with a staged self-defense skit with other kids his size.  He and his partner tried about a dozen things in the weeks prior to the big day, each time failing, adjusting, getting creative, failing again, and changing tact one more time until finally—success!

I market my own business with this blog and my website mostly.  I fail every day to get a conversion, or to get the copy right, or to finish the squeeze page the way I wanted.  I post articles that I think are home runs and less than a dozen people read or re-tweet them.  I just have this belief that sooner or later I will run out of ways to fail and find just the right mix to get the results I’m looking for.  [No I’m not going to mention Thomas Edison—damn!  Just did.] 

So if you’ve gotten this far you’ll realize that the Business Black Belt is not the Karate Black Belt or the Six Sigma Black Belt.  It’s not certified by a governing body.  It’s you as a business owner demonstrating the resolve, determination and discipline to follow the steps in this post to bust through your boards and achieve ultimate success.

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