You know the story, in fact, maybe you have lived it. You decide to start a business, you get your business cards that say you are the CEO and you are up and running. Then you get your first revenue, it is suddenly all real and possibly the best day of your life. However, in the grand scheme of things you are an absolute beginner, a white belt in the life cycle of your new business. Keep in mind I am referring to brand new entrepreneurs here, people who had an idea and decided to strike out on their own to sell a new idea or skill to the community around them. This is not about people who buy a franchise, buy an existing business, or start another in a long line of companies. I am writing about the 90% of business owners that start and fail within a few years.
When it comes to these new business ventures, almost everybody is way too impatient, their expectations entirely out of alignment with reality. The result is that they lose heart too quickly and mentally pull away from their business when they should be doubling down on effort. What if succeeding in business requires 10 years minimum? If this were the case then where are you on your path right now?
When a person joins a martial art training program with hopes of being a black or even a master someday, they know it will not happen in a few months or even years. They expect that there will be gradual improvement, ups and downs and even some mistakes and backward slipping at times. They will have “midnight hours of the soul” leaving them to question why they started this journey at all. This describes the path to all competency and mastery in any pursuit, whether it is martial arts, musicianship, or creating a successful business.
If you were to write down the requirements to achieve “belts” in running your business, what steps would you realistically ascribe to process?
Here is a possible timeline and the belts for starting a new business venture.
White Belt (3 months) – Beginner, get your business cards, put up a website, run some ads, talk to friends and family about your service
Yellow Belt (3 months) – A first actual paying client
Blue Belt (3 months) – Second paying client and feeling that “I think this is actually happening.”
Green Belt (3 months) – A hand full of successes and the beginnings of the need for a process to handle this new reality
Brown Belt (1.5 Years) – Keeping the initial clients and yet learning to add new ones without disrupting service to the original clients.
Black Belt (2 years ) – The trappings of a real business, like payroll, rented space, advertising budgets, CPA, health insurance, etc.
Second to Third Degree Black Belt (3 years) – The first time you turn down a new client because they don’t fit your ideal service offering. You are now refining your offering and have a clear picture of what differentiates you from the rest.
The timeline above is 4.5 years to reach a scalable, controllable business. Imagine if every new business entrepreneur owner allowed for a 5-year timeline to achieve the success they first dreamed of. There would not be a 90% failure rate on new business. If a business owner keeps working at it for 10 years, I can almost guarantee success! Just like that person joining a martial art training program as a true beginner. They must know that mastery does not come in months or even years, but actually in decades, and if they can persevere then, they are GUARANTEED success. As a Kung Fu teacher for over 30 years with thousands of my students reaching black belt, I can tell you this is not my guess about the power of milestones and long-term way of thinking. This is an absolute fact and the only way that people in every endeavor that requires a deep knowledge achieves high-level performance. Can you imagine trying to become a professional world class musician without traveling this path? Creating and operating a successful business requires no less self-knowledge, discipline, and mastery that getting advanced black belts, therefore it takes no less time.