The ‘Art of Business’

Volume 17 Letter 8

“The Art of War” was written almost two thousand years ago. As a general for the King of Wu, Sun Tzu and his army dominated the enemies of the empire for two decades. Today, General Tzu’s lessons in strategic warfare are still taught in military schools around the world and some of the tenents found in this extraordinary book can be applied to modern day business. I’ve taken strategic license on four of Sun Tzu’s principles of war. See how you like my modern day business strategy twist.

1. General Sun Tzu: The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road to safely or to ruin. Hence under no circumstance can it be neglected.
1b. Cam Sun Tzu: Strategy is of vital importance to any business. It is a matter of survival or extinction, a road to prosperity or to ruin. Hence under no circumstance can it be neglected.

Do you have a strategy? Remember, all strategies allocate scarce resources to areas where they can garner the highest long-term return.

2. General Sun Tzu: If you know your enemy and know yourself you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
2b. Cam Sun Tzu: If you know your competitors and understand your competitive advantages your business will prosper.

How well do you know your market? It is vital to study customers and understand their key business drivers and how they make their money. In this way, you can help customers do what they do more efficiently or more productively. This is also good for you.

3. General Sun Tzu: The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus, do many calculations lead to victory and few calculations to defeat how much more no calculations at all! It’s is by attention to this detail that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.
3b. Cam Sun Tzu: Successful leaders find time to plan. They also develop the strategic planning skills of their team. Unsuccessful leaders think planning is a waste of time. It is by attention to this detail I can foresee who is likely to win or to lose.

How much time do you put into planning? Leaders who take the time and effort to develop a strategy are always successful.

4. General Tzu: The enlightened ruler and the wise general will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purpose of spying and thereby achieve great results. Spies are a most important element of war because upon them depends the army’s ability to move.
4b. Cam Sun Tzu: A leader must gain insights into where the market is going. For this reason, market intelligence is the single most important factor in achieving market success. Wise business leaders invest in market research. They base decisions of strategic importance on market insights not on instincts. This is doubly true during a product launch!

Does your business conduct market research? Market intelligence can determine the value of your new product before launch. It can also show which customers to pursue and which to forget. Foregoing market research is setting your business up to fail.

Sun Tzu’s wise words are over 2000 years old yet the principles gleaned from them have application to our businesses today. Developing a strategy allows you to more clearly see how the future will unfold. Take time to develop one: your life may not depend on it but the health of your business does.

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