Business is often compared to warfare without weapons. The timeless “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu has influenced military, political, and corporate leaders all across the world with its ingenious tactics for winning battles. At the core of this classic book is the message that brute force approaches can backfire, and size alone does not guarantee victory!
The ageless concepts of Sun Tzu’s renowned book, “The Art of War,” which was written around 500 B.C., have been employed extensively in business and strategy. Additionally, Sun Tzu’s principles are ideal for small business owners & entrepreneurs immersed in severe battle with industry giants because strategy, positioning, planning, and leadership all play equally essential roles.
The Art of War for Business, more particularly for small firms, illustrates the benefits of being the underdog. Larger competitors may use overwhelming power, but smaller competitors can outwit, outmanoeuvre, and out-strategize them to seize control of key markets, meet unmet demands, and succeed.
The reason it’s been so popular all around the world is that most of the lessons can be translated directly to other, competitive fields, like sports or business. In order to make it more actionable, the principles of The Art of War will be looked at it in a business context.
Here are 6 major lessons from Master Sun Tzu:
- Know thy enemy. If you know your enemy and know thyself, you need not fear the outcome of a hundred battles.
- Only enter battles you know you can win.
- In battle with the enemy, avoid what is strong and attack what is weak.
- One of the most fundamental principles of war is built on deception. Deceive your competition to make them do what you want.
- 2.Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy without fighting : It starts by knowing your enemy well. A battle isn’t about outfighting the enemy but outthinking him. Understand and practice the following in scenarios: A) If your opponent is arrogant, pretend to be weak; B) If he is relaxing attack; C) If his forces are united, separate them. In a nutshell it’s important to divide your enemies.
- Lead your team as if you were leading a single person by the hand.
Also, here are a few lessons in detail:
Lesson 1: Only Enter Battles you Know you Can Win
Winners know when to fight & when not to withdraw. Fools enter battles and then start thinking about how to win. Strategists know how they’re going to win before they even enter the battlefield! The most skillful fighters often avoid battles altogether & that’s why they’re never defeated. So if you’re starting a business, look at the industry first.
Can you even win against your biggest competitors, and if not, is there a different niche you can fill? This has to be one of the hardest lessons that I had to learn & apply when I started Hexavia!
Lesson 2: Deceive your Competitors to Impose your Will on Them
Mask strength with weakness, courage with timidity & order with disorder!
A clever army will win not with their bodies, but with their minds. Take your competitors by surprise & use the element of surprise by making it seem like you’re miles away when you’re actually closer to the enemies base with distractions or surprise attacking in several places to splinter opposing forces.
Lesson 3: Lead your Team as if you were Leading a Single Person by the Hand
Your business will need a team, and eventually, that team will have to grow! As companies get bigger, they get more complex. Every person adds an infinite amount of feelings, thoughts, and ideas to the business, and all of those have to be managed & channeled in an optimum way.
Whether you’re managing a big team or a small one, the tools are the same: Break them down into smaller groups & then use clear signals to steer them into the right direction.
In business, that means teams should stay small, 3–4 people are often a good number to cooperate, before things get too complicated. Then you can set clear signals, like sales targets, tools to use, and a daily morning briefing, to make sure everyone’s on track. Never forget 1-on-1 interaction with everyone on your team, because if you treat your employees like family, they’ll be just as loyal.
- Choose your Battleground: Choose the right ground for your battles.
- Timing is Everything: Prepare without falling prey to decision-paralysis.
- Turn Weaknesses into Strengths: Leverage strengths while overcoming limitations.
- Find Achilles Heel: Strike competitors’ weakest points & seize every opportunity.
- Focus on what Matters: Focus priorities & resources on conquering key challenges.
- Deceive your Competition: Go where the enemy is not & take advantage of your speed & malleability because business, like war, is about deception! You need to make your competition believe your somewhere, but your actually somewhere else.
- Develop Strategic Alliances: Build & leverage strategic alliances because when entering unchartered territories, make sure to get a guide to help you navigate through the labyrinth of securing business.
- Detailed Planning & Assessment: Don’t rush into action before thoroughly assessing the situation.
- Strategic Attacks: Seek to win with minimal confrontation & Obai fundamental principles.
- Tactical Dispositions: Strategy comes before tactics, but your strategy must also consider tactical elements, so have invincible defenses.
- Strength vs. Weakness: To win, pool your strengths against your enemy’s weaknesses by being tactically flexible.
- Maneuvering: Think of ways to put your enemy at a disadvantage, then refine your approach as you take action.
- Tactical Variation: As you implement your strategy, adjust your tactics based on real-time feedback.
- Terrain Awareness: Know your terrain (internal/external areas of business operations) to make winning decisions.
- Intelligence & Espionage: Gather, organize, integrate, and disseminate information effectively for better decisions & invest in good intelligence.
Strategy. Business StartUps and Corporate Restructuring Consulting
Uwaoma Eizu is the lead strategist at Hexavia! He is a graduate of Mathematics with two MBAs and over a decade of experience working with startups and big businesses. His core is in building startups and in corporate restructuring. He is also a certified member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and the Project Management Institute, USA. By the side, he writes weekly for the BusinessDay newspaper.