Categorized | Featured Articles, Management

Do you own a black belt business?

By Steve Goranson

What does it mean to earn a black belt in any of the various styles of martial arts? In addition to being a form of self-defense and exercise, a black belt a philosophy or a way of life.karate

I got involved in the martial arts at a very early age but didn’t receive my black belt in Tang Soo Do Karate until I was almost 30 years old. Getting it taught me how to survive the battles of business and life. It taught the importance of goal setting, focus, determination, and the use of systems. 

Each martial art has a series of belts or levels that student strive to reach before they can become a black belt. This systematized approach provides students a process to gain mastery over a particular level of skills before moving on to the next level. Pragmatically, the system demonstrates the importance of setting an end goal as well as identifying milestones along the way to keep you on track. 

My sensei (Karate instructor) taught me that at each level you reach before you become a black belt, you are just learning Karate. Once you become a black belt, you are now doing Karate.

This systematized approached can also be applied to business. You get your black belt in business when you are doing business instead of learning business.

Let’s look at the six belts of mastering business:

1. White belt. At this level, the emphasis is on basic business mastery over time, team, and money. It’s about getting the chaos out of your business, making payroll, and ensuring that your employees understand their roles and responsibilities in your organization.

This is when you learn to delegate tasks to your team, so that you can concentrate on developing advanced skills needed to obtain your business black belt.

2. Yellow belt. At the yellow-belt stage, you work on creating predictable cash flow in the business. You develop your niche and USP (unique selling proposition) so that you can start selling on value, not price.

3. Green belt. When you become a green belt, you create efficiencies in your business by developing systems that will run your business, so you don’t have to.

4. Blue belt. At this level you learn to hire the right team players, who will run the systems that run your business.

5. Red belt. When you achieve a red belt, your hard work comes together. You start to see the synergies of your systems and the team you develop. This is when you begin to groom the general manager who will replace you in your business.

6. Black belt. Now you’ve made it! You’ve created a commercially profitable enterprise that works without you. As a business black belt, you generate passive income from the business.  You can now take the skills and knowledge that you have learned and apply them to other businesses, or start investing your profits so that your money is making money. Or, you can start working on your exit strategy, because you have increased the value of your business to the point that it is attractive to others.

The journey doesn’t stop here. There are new goals and milestones as you reach for the higher levels of being a black belt.

Steve Goranson

Steve Goranson

Steve Goranson, MBA is a certified business coach who owns and operates the Jacksonville office for ActionCOACH, an international firm with more than 1,000 offices in 26 countries. To learn more about ActionCOACH and Steve Goranson go to

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