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3 Ways Burned Out Founders Can Get Excited About Their Work Again (and Increase Revenue in the Process) Are you a longtime business owner looking for a way to increase revenue and even enjoy your work more? Here's how developing a White Belt Mentality will do the trick!

By John Kyle Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever trained in some type of Martial Arts before? I have. Man, I loved that stuff! I could kick people in the face and get a pat on the back for it (unlike when I did it at school). But looking back at how I was mentally when I was just starting out is fun to revisit from time to time.

I didn't care if my belt was tied really weirdly and sticking out at odd angles. I didn't care that my uniform was on sideways, inside-out or backward. I just wanted to train as often as I could and as much as I could. I was so excited just to be at the Dojo; to see everyone else punching, kicking, sparring, yelling, etc. I absolutely loved it all! And that was why I eventually became so successful in the Martial Arts industry — it was my "everything is new, cool and doable" attitude. Today, I call that viewpoint the White Belt Mentality.

In today's competitive business environment, this is a crucial aspect of becoming as successful as you can; keeping that fresh and new attitude in order to generate new ideas, concepts, relationships and methods that will eventually lead to that success. Because doing the alternative will certainly lead to failure!

It's true. I sit with long-time business owners each week, and so many are operating every aspect of their business in the same manner as when they started decades ago. They use the same advertising and marketing. The same old tired sales approaches. The same clunky methods of collecting funds from customers as well as sending funds. And yet, they can never seem to understand why they're falling far behind their competition each day, because they feel they've mastered their industry and can just "cruise" to success. Here are some simple steps to develop and keep the White Belt Mentality:

Related: Here's How to Get Excited Again When You're Bored With Your Business

1. Study your industry

Let's say you started your business 20 years ago: Have there been changes? Darn right! In the past two decades, just look at what happened to the taxi industry, bookstores, newspapers, etc. To keep a fresh White Belt Mentality, you need to ask what changes have happened and/or are happening now in your industry. Are your practices, services and products up to date? Are you prepared for the change, or is your competition ahead of you?

Often, just looking at your own industry for changes allows you to gain a fresh new perspective, which is needed to gain the right mentality. Think about the folks who started up Lyft and Uber; they had the White Belt Mentality. At first, they were laughed at and told it wasn't possible, but because they had this mentality, they focused on what was possible.

You may not want to upend your industry like Uber, but here are some easy steps to stay connected to the changes in your industry:

  • Get a subscription to an industry trade journal (or two)

  • Join an industry networking group (or two)

  • Listen to industry podcasts (lots)

  • See what new technology is available

  • See what your local competition is charging and/or changing

  • See what your local competition is offering and do it yourself, but better.

2. Hire new blood

Far too often, I see small business owners surround themselves with like-minded employees. They look the same, talk the same, same generation, same interests, same political affiliation, etc. And when you have the same people in the same positions doing the same things year in and year out, nothing changes. In other words: "When nothing changes, nothing changes." Making that change is up to you, the business owner.

Remember when you were in your twenties, and the old folks in their 40s, 50s and 60s were "outdated" and didn't know anything about technology? Too often, the older generation has an outlook that the younger generation doesn't know what they're doing and vice versa. Yeah, that's you now. Don't be THAT business owner. Being the business owner with the White Belt Mentality who supports change and growth will produce better results. Here are a few steps you can take to help begin the change of staffing:

  • Let go of employees who are not adding value to the bottom line

  • Let go of employees who have a negative attitude towards change

  • Bring on employees that understand new technology

  • Bring on employees who have energy and enthusiasm

  • Bring on employees that have new ideas about how to make money

  • Bring on employees from your competition that is kicking your butt

Related: 6 Ways to Attract Diverse Early Career Talent

3. Kick-start your creative juices

Do you read books or study new subjects? I do, every chance I get. I'm either reading a new book or listening to one on my Audible app while driving. However, when I mention this to people, I find I am alone (except for my wife — she reads vastly more than I do). According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people in the U.S. aged 15-44 spend 10 minutes or less per day reading. And according to a PEW Research Center survey conducted in January–February of 2021, 23% of adults in the U.S. had not read a book in whole or in part in the previous year. That's a lot of people who choose to get educated and informed via social media and TV.

So, become a student again. Get curious, and learn what is new in your industry and outside your industry. What new products are there to sell to add to your bottom line? What new methods of creating products and services are out there for you to use? What new software programs are out there? Are you still selling products the same way you did 20+ years ago? People have changed, and you need to update your approach. So, learn new things, get creative, and see what you can accomplish with this new energy — this new White Belt Mentality. Here are a few ideas on how to become a student again and develop creativity:

  • Take a new in-person sales course

  • Read a new book each month (sales, leadership, business, etc.)

  • Join a new networking group

  • Take classes or a course at a local college

  • Delegate new program/product development to employees with new ideas

  • Sell your business, and find a new industry to get excited about

Related: 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life and Having a Positive Mindset

Pro tip: Making the effort to get that White Belt Mentality back into your daily routine is easier said than done. Honestly, depending on where you are, it may not be realistic for you. If you've been burned out for several years and hate what you do, then maybe you need a new business in a new industry. Maybe you need some type of new challenge in order to get a fresh perspective on things. I say this because I was there, with burnout, before I went into financial services. But I got out of being burned out and found my way back to a White Belt Mentality.

John Kyle

Business Banker

John Kyle is a business banker who connects business owners with information, resources and solutions that allow them to achieve their business goals. Kyle is also a champion kickboxer, owned three successful Dojos and earned a 7th Degree Black Belt. He resides in Colorado Springs.

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