Today, I want to share with you some business lessons I learned from “The Art of War” book by Sun Tzu. For those of you who might not be familiar with the name Sun Tzu; Sun Tzu was an adviser, philosopher and strategist to the Emperor of China. Back then, his military advice and strategies helped the emperor maintain a stronghold on the Chinese province.
“To win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the acme of skills. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skills.” – Sun Tzu
Many of his powerful strategies were tabulated in written form and translated, resulting in the book; “The art of war.” If you have not read this book, I will advice you get it as soon as possible. But for now, I just want to share some of his strategies with you. Though most of them are military, they are very much applicable in the world of business and marketing.
7 business lessons from The art of war book by Sun Tzu
1. Defeat your opponent by strategy and flexibility
In the art of war book; Sun Tzu made us understand that our competitive objective should be to conquer our competitors by strategy, not by conflict because conflict may ultimately benefit no one.
He also highlighted that overcoming competition requires careful and detailed planning, clear business strategy and proper strategic management. Flexibility entails responding quickly to changing factors such as economic, environmental and political factors. It also entails aligning swiftly or taking advantage of emerging trends.
“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” – Sun Tzu
Your overall business strategy must be flexible and opportunistic with respect to the prevailing situation. That means you must constantly review your strategies and make the necessary adjustments. You must also not be static with respect to your strategic plan and you must take certain decisions quickly.
“To defeat the enemy, you must be as flexible as water. Water has the ability to quickly take the shape of any container it finds itself.” – Chinese proverb
2. Divide your opponent’s attention
“Everywhere i go, i am being watched by a thousand eyes.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
“Intentional confusion is the strategy of moving in circles without any apparent direction.” – Sun Tzu
This is the second lesson I picked up from the art of war. You must look for smart ways to divert your enemy’s 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 strategically divert your competitor’s attention.
3. Use competitive information
“Know your enemies and above all, know yourself.” – Sun Tzu
“Accurate information is the foundation of profitable operations.” – Sun Tzu
You probably must have watched the news on TV today? Have you taught about the information you heard in the news? Did you analyze the information you obtained from TV to find out if that information will affect your business positively or negatively?
“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” – Bill Gates
“Succeeding in a direct engagement on a competitor depends on deceiving him. If your stratagems are obvious to your enemies, no matter how good they are; you will be defeated.” – Sun Tzu
Information can be a competitive advantage for your business depending on how fast you apply it. Mind you that Information is not power but its strategic application is power. You must always strive to get information and use it to your advantage.
“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” – Jack Welch
4. Forge a team with singleness of purpose and commitment
When building a business, you must bring your 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 well motivated individual.” – Gill Gates
“Treat your men well, and train them thoroughly.” – Sun Tzu
Your ability to forge a team out of your employees makes you a good business leader. You must 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 can’t envision the future with you; they are not worthy being your team.
5. Utilize your strengths at full capacity
Sun Tzu in the art of war explains that to defeat the enemy, you must discover your strengths and utilize that strength of your at full capacity. You have to give your business everything thing you’ve got to keep it going.
6. Use climate and prevailing conditions to your advantage
Of all the strategies and lessons shared by Sun Tzu in the art of war, this one really hit me the most. 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 in the group of the lamenting entrepreneurs but not anymore.
“Face reality as it is; not as it was or as you wish it were.” – Jack Welch
I 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 a loophole. If I don’t find one, I create one. No matter how bad the situation, you must find a way to use it to your business advantage.
“When I see a barrier, I cry and I curse, and then I get a ladder and climb over it.” – John H. Johnson
7. Exploit the weakness of your competitors
“Before entering an engagement, study your enemies closely.” – Sun Tzu
Learn to spot loopholes and weaknesses within and without your business environment because this singular factor can be a big competitive advantage for you. You must train your eyes to see opportunities that others cannot see. Sun Tzu taught me to utilize my strengths at full capacity. But where do I apply this strength of mine to obtain maximum result? This was Sun Tzu’s answer; “to obtain maximum effectiveness, you must use your strengths at full capacity to exploit your competitor’s weakness.”
“You are in a war. You must plan to take the other guy down first and do it. Winning is not the best thing; it’s the only thing. If it were not, no one would keep score. To win the war, you must take charge. You must set the organization’s objectives, establish a chain of control, delegate, appraise performance, adjust and act.” – The Mafia Manager