Blue Belts & Roadmaps

Blue Belts & Roadmaps

By Scott Sambucci | May 11, 2022

As I left class on Saturday, I asked my BJJ Professor (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) –

“In the next week or so, I’d like to talk about what I need to do to get on the path to my blue belt.  I’ve been training for 9 months – I know I have a long way to go, but I’d like to know what I need to do in the next 6-12 months to get there.”

He told me – “Check out the criteria I posted in the [Facebook] group – it will show you everything you need to learn.”

Then he said – “Right now, you need to work on your transitions. You’re throwing yourself at your opponent – you need to work on keeping under control with your passes.”

Then we talked specifics about what that meant for me with my size, strength (and lack of speed… 🐢)

I walked out of there with clarity on what’s ahead for my next big step and where to focus over the next few weeks.

Damn, he’s good. 🙂

Just like BJJ belts, there are levels with our startups that show us that the work we’re putting in every day is paying off –

  • Nailing down those first 10 paying customers…
  • Hitting the magic $1mm ARR…
  • Pushing forward to $3mm, then $10mm…

Running and growing a startup is a lot like training BJJ – every day, every week, and every month is like a series of training sessions.

Every email, every call, every demo, every negotiation, every hire is learning – an opportunity to get better. 

And while we know we’re improving, it’s sometimes hard to see our own growth.

Is there really a difference between $999k and $1mm ARR?

Not really, other than the satisfaction and proof that we hit the magic million mark.  Just like the difference between someone who walked into class as a white belt and was awarded their blue belt that night.

Reaching the next level in our growth doesn’t happen with anyone action or any one sale. One good conference isn’t the same as consistently filling the funnel.  Adding that next customer doesn’t get us $84k MRR on its own. Making one good hire doesn’t mean we’ve scaled the company.

One day doesn’t make the difference, but every day does – showing up and doing the work with the intention and purpose to improve and grow.

Some days we regress. We discover blind spots we’ve had for years, leaving us angry and annoyed.

But, no matter how much determination and desire we have to keep working and building, no matter how much effort and grind we put in every day, we have to do the RIGHT work at the RIGHT TIME.  Otherwise, we’ll end up tired out, burned out and wiped out.

As a white belt, it’s irrelevant for me to learn wrist locks or attacks from an opponent’s guard. I just need to learn basic chokes and escapes, how to protect my back and avoid arm bars. There’s a process to growing from a white belt to a blue belt. Then to a purple, brown and black belt.

Same with startups.

The way a $300k startup should be generating leads and building their team is different from a $3mm ARR startup racing towards $10mm ARR. A startup just trying to land their first ten customers doesn’t need a VP of Sales and a team of SDRs. That $3mm startup shouldn’t be relying on conferences and referrals for lead gen or leaning on the founders to convert every deal.

It’s not the startup’s fault – everyone around them is screaming to “grow fast!” and “scale sales!” but yet have never given them tactical, practical guidance on what to do when, leaving founders to pursue or imitate what they see others do, thinking that’s the right plan for them.

Avoid the distraction and temptation to skip steps or copy that Series D startup headlining TechCrunch today. We can’t skip steps or hack our way to making an impact.

Do the right work for your stage, for your level. When you do that over time, you will be the black belt of your market for your customers.

Focus on Now now, worry about Later later.


BTW… This is EXACTLY why I built the Startup Selling Systems RoadmapTM – it details the specific sales strategies and selling systems that a B2B startup needs to implement to get to their next level.

It covers the four parts of sales and GTM – Prospecting & Lead Gen, Pipeline & Deal Conversion, Pricing & Customer Success, and Operations & Team Structure.

If you’d like a copy of this two-page guide check out: