Black belt

I want a black belt in business

My mind set has changed

I was recently invited to a martial arts seminar by a good friend of mine. I looked at the invite for the moment, recognised the teacher and thought it would be good. A moment later I realised that the whole idea of going to a martial arts seminar no longer turned me on the way it used to. That’s not to say I won’t go to another one, that’s not true at all, but I have realized how much my focus has changed. Using the analogy of martial arts I have decided that I want my next black belt to be in business. I think it’s overdue to be honest. I began my business 19 years ago and it’s undergone massive changes in that time. I have to say that things are not the way I perceived them when I wrote my business plan in a Hackney bedsit of April and May 1993.

I want to get better

In those 19 years my business has undulated up and down, having good times and bad times; infact, some truly terrible times, but few amazingly wonderful times. I have a lifestyle business. I get by, pay the bills and bumble along. Last year’s near tragedy has made me re-evaluate what I want though. Or perhaps it’s me approaching 50? Whatever it is I want to get much better at this. I want to learn more, implement more and make the experience of dealing with me, learning from me or working with me a better experience for all concerned.

The black belts to the Grandmasters

If I was to judge myself at the moment – in belt terms I’d say I’m a green belt. There are four more belts to go to get to black: blue, purple, brown and the black belt itself. Who determines when I pass? I do. This is my business, my life and my ambition. Who do I judge myself against? Other black belts in the region who are local business owners I know who don’t worry about money anymore (or don’t appear to); who take holidays when they want, who have a nice home, car and lifestyle. They are also healthy and appear to have a settled personal life and state of mind. Who are the Masters? The people who have mastered business and have a very successful lifestyle. People like Simon Cowell – around £100 million a year. The Grandmasters are the billionaires: Sir Richard Branson and Donald Trump. Where do I expect to get on this scale? Honestly I’d be happy around 3rd Dan – the Masters are 7th and 8th Dans and the Grandmasters 10th Dan and above. If I was a green belt in martial arts and wanted to get to 3rd Dan black belt it would take me years. Business is different – I can grow as quickly as I like. It just takes knowledge, courage and implementation.

It’s not like it used to be

You’ll notice above that I said ‘appear’ a few times, that’s because people are often not what they seem. They have a public face and a private face. We rarely know exactly how well, or good, people are doing – in their private life, their health or their business. I want it all. I’m in great shape physically, my mind is working better all the time and I am learning lots. I want to learn more though, much more. Business has changed so much with the growth of the internet – marketing has changed completely. No longer can you put some ads in the paper, another ad in the Yellow Pages and people will show up. You have to work smarter and harder for the same return. The reward is when you are smart more customers come and see you. Everyone wins. That’s the way business should be.

1,4,15, 60, 20

I’m a member of the Entrepreneurs Circle, I go to the meetings once a month and to the national events every other month. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that since I joined my business has improved and I’m happier being in business. I’m learning so much it’s hard to implement it all, but what I have done has helped so much. I’m going to keep studying, keep practising what I preach and grow my business so it it unrecognisable from where it was in 2011. I’ll get my black belt and follow the edict of Bruce Lee ‘knowledge is not enough, you must apply’. Nigel Botterill, who heads up the Entrepreneurs Circle often quotes these numbers: 1, 4, 15, 60 and 20. That’s 1% are the super successful, 4% are the successful, 15% are getting there, 60% are getting by and 20% are struggling. By that equation 80% of businesses are doing most things wrong. I would definitely count myself in that 80%. The difference now is I’ve gone from 20% to the 60% and heading for the 15%.

The truth

People who have jobs have a perception that people who have their own business play golf in the afternoon and have a relatively easy life. The truth is very different. We work very hard, it’s often highly stressful and sometimes we wonder why we do what we do? Hence the 80% of businesses that are doing it wrong. For me that it no longer the case. For once I’m going to be a belt chaser and black is the colour I want.