When people ask me what I do, I sometimes tell them to think of me as the “Black Belt of Branding.” It is a communication shortcut and helps people tap into mental maps that they already have about black belts. Though there is no way to earn a black belt in branding, I do have a real black belt and have studied martial arts my whole life.
One of the things I love about martial arts is the incremental learning process. When you’re a white belt, there’s a very basic form with basic moves that you must master and test to move on to the next level. As you move up in the ranks, the skills and moves become more dynamic and challenging. Like martial arts, entrepreneurship has its moves and skills that you must learn on your way to earning a black belt in business. Sure, there are books you can read and hacks and shortcuts you can find, but like martial arts, training to be an entrepreneur is best learned by doing.
Meet Chatri Sityodtong, a self-made Harvard MBA entrepreneur and lifelong martial artist from Thailand who has not only earned his black belt, but has built a billion dollar business. His rags-to-riches life story has inspired millions around the world. Featured in the biggest media outlets and publications while taking the stage at the most prestigious global conferences, Chatri was most recently named the “Most Powerful Person in Asian MMA” by Forbes, Yahoo! Sports, and International Business Times. I’d describe him as the “Black Belt of Business.”
At the RISE Conference in Hong Kong, I had a unique opportunity to sit down and talk with him about the connection between martial arts and entrepreneurship.
Here are Chatri’s top training tips for entrepreneurs who want to earn their own black belt in business.
You can reduce the number of errors and failures you make as an entrepreneur if you have mentors. You’re going to succeed that much more because your path to success will avoid the same mistakes that your mentors made. As a young entrepreneur, the idea is to mimic someone else’s success or path in terms of the key lessons. The more mentors you have, the better off you will be.
Personally, I can speak to this as I have surrounded myself with mentors like Dennis Yu, Leonard Kim and John Bates. These individuals are a big reason for the growth and success of my company InfluenceTree, where we teach individuals how to discover and build their personal brands. Their guidance has helped me avoid mistakes along the way.
Train in an Immersive Experience
When you are immersed in an environment where other young entrepreneurs are also pursuing their dreams, you will tap into a cross-fertilization of experiences and knowledge, shared failures and successes. Seek an environment that is based on real-life experiences. Life’s lessons when actually doing things are far greater than any textbook or classroom will teach you. Yes, you can read a book. Yes, you can go get a degree. But there’s nothing like talking to an experienced entrepreneur who’s literally done all of that and says, “Here are the pitfalls, here’s what I did right, here’s what I did wrong.”
Start with a Full-Power Passion Bar
Perhaps you’re building a startup because you want to be the next Uber, you want to make money, or you want to be a billionaire, but these are all the wrong motives. If you look at the greatest entrepreneurs in the world, they started because they genuinely loved what they were doing, and they knew it was going to have a positive impact on the lives of millions or billions of people.
Chatri explains passion like the “life-power bar” in many video games like Street Fighter. Your power bar of passion has got to be very high when you start because you’re going to get rejected by VCs, have employees that quit, have product launches that fail, and have things go wrong. Failure after failure is part of being an entrepreneur, so you have to have a lot of passion when you start because you’re going to get hit hard. If your passion is very low to begin with, you’re going to get knocked out.
Massive Value Proposition
You need a value proposition that is far greater than what exists in today’s realm. Meaning, if you’re coming in saying, “I’m going to create LinkedIn part two because it has a better email system,” well, LinkedIn has hundreds of millions of users. It’s an ecosystem. Yes, maybe people complain about their email system and messaging system as being sub-par, but is that what’s going to change the game? The more your concept is different from what exists in the world today—that’s basically your runway. That’s how much time you have to execute. But that’s also why consumers will shift to you as opposed to living the status quo.
Know the Difference Between Vision and Execution
Make sure that the opportunity you pursue has a massive market. Your vision should be, “I want to touch 3-billion lives.” Your execution plan is, “I’m going to start with this particular demographic or this particular country, and because my concept is scalable and because the value proposition is translatable across the globe, I’m able to replicate all over.” Many entrepreneurs don’t emphasize the difference between their vision and execution plan.
You cannot build a company with only a small or super niche market, but you can start small and then communicate your vision for expansion.
Ability to Attract Resources
As an entrepreneur, you need to have the ability to attract resources. Whether it’s investors, employees, customers, vendors, or anything else, you must attract resources above and beyond the size of your company. In other words, you can’t think, “Well, I’m only a two-person startup, therefore I can’t hire the very best people.” Or saying “Because I’m a two-person startup, I can’t get the best vendors at the lowest cost price.” Or, “Because I’m a two-person startup, I can’t ask for the million-dollar contract.” That’s not true. The greatest entrepreneurs in the world have a unique ability to attract resources above and beyond what they should be able to attract at any given stage.
Learn to Lead
You also need leadership skills. At the end of the day, every entrepreneur is leading a team behind a mission. Leadership is definitely a skill — not something you’re just born with. You must learn leadership.
It is crucial that you pay attention to cultivating culture. It is a skill that’s no different from throwing a roundhouse kick. If you don’t know how to kick, you can’t kick. If you don’t know how to build a great culture, you will lose control of it. A great culture is the engine of a company.
If you build an environment that really connects, you can build a black belt business where everyone loves the company, loves each other, loves the cause, and loves the mission — they will go to extraordinary heights to see that vision become a reality. Building a great culture is very, very critical for any entrepreneur’s training skill set. The foundation of culture is ultimately what you represent as a tribe, as human beings, as a group, and as a family.
So grab your gear and start training. (Keeyyyaa!) Remember, success starts with the basics.
Do you have other basic moves and/or mentalities to add to this list? Share them as comments.