Seven business lessons from The art of warbook by Sun Tzu1. Defeat your opponent by strategy and flexibilityIn the art of war book; Sun Tzu made us understand that our competitive objective shouldbe to conquer our competitors by strategy, not by conflict because conflict may ultimatelybenefit no one.He also highlighted that overcoming competition requires careful and detailed planning,clear business strategy and proper strategic management. Flexibility entails respondingquickly to changing factors such as economic, environmental and political factors. It alsoentails aligning swiftly or taking advantage of emerging trends. "No plan survives contact with the enemy." – Sun TzuYour overall business strategy must be flexible and opportunistic with respect to theprevailing situation. That means you must constantly review your strategies and make thenecessary adjustments. You must also not be static with respect to your strategic plan andyou must take certain decisions quickly. The Art of War "To defeat the enemy, you must be as flexible as water. Water has the ability to quicklytake the shape of any container it finds itself." – Chinese proverb2. Divide your opponentThis is the second lesson I picked up from the art of war. You must look for smart ways todivert your enemys attention while you are making your strategic moves. For instance,when you are developing a new product or when you want to launch one, try to strategicallydivert your competitor’s attention. The Art of War3. Use competitive informationYou probably must have watched the news on TV today? Have you taught about the informationyou heard in the news? Did you analyze the information you obtained from TV to find out if thatinformation will affect your business positively or negatively?
"The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, thebest way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job withinformation. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win orlose." – Bill GatesInformation can be a competitive advantage for your business depending on how fast youapply it. Mind you that Information is not power but its strategic application is power. Youmust always strive to use information to your advantage. The Art of War "If you dont have a competitive advantage, dont compete." – Jack Welch4. Forge a team with singleness of purpose andcommitmentI have said this earlier in an article I wrote titled "10 Business Challenges Entrepreneurs FaceWhen Building a Business from Scratch" and Sun Tzu supports my stance. You must bringyour employees together as one family. Your business must become their business. "Teams should be able to act with the same unity of purpose and focus as a wellmotivated individual." – Gill GatesYour ability to forge a team out of your employees makes you a good business leader. Youmust unite your team to act with singleness of purpose. They must be committed to your course.They must understand your business mission and vision. If they cant envision the future withyou; they are not worthy being your team. The Art of War5. Utilize your strengths at full capacitySun Tzu in the art of war explains that to defeat the enemy, you must discover yourstrengths and utilize that strength of your at full capacity. You have to give your businesseverything thing youve got to keep it going.6. Use climate and prevailing conditions to youradvantageOf all the strategies and lessons shared by Sun Tzu in the art of war, this one really hit me themost. I have seen entrepreneurs cry and lament about unfavorable environments, lack of
funding, bad government policy and almost about everything. To be truthful, I was also inthe group of the lamenting entrepreneurs but not anymore. "Face reality as it is; not as it was or as you wish it were." – Jack WelchI have learned to face business challenges squarely. Sun Tzu taught me that in every situation,whether good or bad; there is an opportunity. Even in the worst situation, I try to find aloophole. If I dont find one, I create one. No matter how bad the situation, you must find away to use it to your business advantage. The Art of War “When I see a barrier, I cry and I curse, and then I get a ladder and climb over it.” –John H. Johnson7. Exploit the weakness of your competitorsSun Tzu taught me to utilize my strengths at full capacity. But where do I apply this strengthof mine to obtain maximum result? This was Sun Tzus answer; “to obtain maximumeffectiveness, you must use your strengths at full capacity to exploit your competitorsweakness.” “You are in a war. You must plan to take the other guy down first and do it. Winningis not the best thing; its the only thing. If it were not, no one would keep score. To win thewar, you must take charge. You must set the organizations objectives, establish a chain ofcontrol, delegate, appraise performance, adjust and act.” – The Mafia ManagerSix Strategic Principles for ManagersBased on Mark McNeilly’s book Sun Tzu and the Art of Business1) Capture Your Market Without Destroying It“Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this....For to winone hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemywithout fighting is the acme of skill.”--Sun TzuSun Tzu calls this the need to “win-all-without-fighting”. Since the goal of your businessis to survive and prosper, you must capture your market. However, you must do so in
such a way that your market is not destroyed in the process. A company can do this inseveral ways, such as attacking parts of the market that are under-served or by usingsubtle, indirect, and low-key approach that will not draw a competitors attention orresponse. What should be avoided at all costs is a price-war. Research has shown thatprice attacks draw the quickest and most aggressive responses from competitors, as wellas leaving the market drained of profits.2) Avoid your competitors strength, and attack their weakness“An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to thelowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.”--Sun TzuThe Western approach to warfare has spilled over into business competition, leadingmany companies to launch head-on, direct attacks against their competitors strongestpoint. This approach to business strategy leads to battles of attrition, which end upbeing very costly for everyone involved. Instead, you should focus on the competitionsweakness, which maximizes your gains while minimizing the use of resources. This, bydefinition, increases profits.3) Use foreknowledge & deception to maximize the power of businessintelligence.“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril”--Sun TzuTo find and exploit your competitors weakness requires a deep understanding of theirexecutives strategy, capabilities, thoughts and desires, as well as similar depth ofknowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses. It is also important to understand theoverall competitive and industry trends occurring around you in order to have a feel forthe “terrain” on which you will do battle. Conversely, to keep your competitor fromutilizing this strategy against you, it is critical to mask your plans and keep them secret.4) Use speed and preparation to swiftly overcome the competition.“To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for anycontingency is the greatest of virtues.”--Sun Tzu
To fully exploit foreknowledge and deception, Sun Tzu states that you must be able toact with blinding speed. To move with speed does not mean that you do things hastily.In reality, speed requires much preparation. Reducing the time it takes your company tomake decisions, develop products and service customers is critical. To think throughand understand potential competitive reactions to your attacks is essential as well.5) Use alliances and strategic control points in the industry to “shape” youropponents and make them conform to your will.“Therefore, those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought thereby him.”--Sun Tzu“Shaping you competition” means changing the rules of contest and making thecompetition conform to your desires and your actions. It means taking control of thesituation away from your competitor and putting it in your own hands. One way of doingso is through the skillful use of alliances. By building a strong web of alliances, themoves of your competitors can be limited. Also, by controlling key strategic points inyour industry, you will be able to call the tune to which your competitors dance.6) Develop your character as a leader to maximize the potential of youremployees.“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence inthem, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”--Sun TzuIt takes a special kind of leader to implement these strategic concepts and maximize thetremendous potential of employees. Sun Tzu describes the many traits of the preferredtype of leader. The leader should be wise, sincere, humane, courageous, and strict.Leaders must also always be “first in the toils and fatigues of the army”, putting theirneeds behind those of their troops. It is leaders with character that get the most out oftheir employees.These principles have been utilized throughout time in both the military arena and thebusiness world to build creative strategies and achieve lasting success. If you use themproperly, they will bring you success as well.