In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you’ll learn most of the moves as a white belt. Everyone gets the same toolbox. But there’s a gulf of effectiveness between how the black belt and the white belt implement those tools.

The difference between the white and the black belt is years of training. The consequence of that training is sophistication. There are functional differences between how the expert and the beginner setup, execute, and follow through on a choke.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that it takes someone five years of consistent and regular practice to become a black belt. If you’re a mixed martial artist balancing your time over five years with BJJ, boxing, and wrestling you’re not going to end up a black belt because you don’t have enough of that sustained focus. You’ll probably have a purple belt’s advanced, but inexpert, understanding of the toolbox.

It’s the same with your business.

The more focused your business is, the more sophisticated it will tend to become over time. The result is increased ability to compete in your domain.

As an example, one of my goals for my business this year was to improve our operations. We’ve been running the same operational pattern for a long time and in 2022 we had some serious problems with our project based work that made me take another look at it.

In April, we did a first pass for improvements. The past two weeks we did another pass. Each time we’ve iterated on our processes, we’ve made seemingly small changes. But those small changes in aggregate have created a more and more sophisticated process that is better able to create value for us and our clients.

Performance comes from narrowing your focus. The trade-off you make in doing this is resilience. Narrowly focused businesses are more susceptible to losses through changes in the environment. This is like a black belt BJJ stepping into the MMA world and getting knocked out because they can’t strike.

However, there’s also risk with not being performant enough. Even MMA generalists have specialties, because without a certain level of sophistication in some domain, you can’t win. For your business, being too broad in your scope means that you’ll never get sophisticated enough to harvest a good return.

One heuristic on whether you’re narrowly focused enough is how sophisticated the business operations are. Are you a white belt doing the same things as everyone else in a basic manner? Or is there nuance to how you execute?