Sun Tzu: The Art of War: Battling the Big Dogs, Part II

Sun Tzu, Chinese general from around 400BC is famous for his text entitled, "The Art of War." Much of his advice is still relevant today.

Yesterday we explored two of Sun Tzu’s principles that will enable the "Small Business Davids" (SMB) of the world to compete with and beat "The Big Regional or Multi-national Goliaths (RNB). This week we’ll explore three more of those principles.

Strengthes And Weeknesses

"In war, numbers alone confer no advantage."…Sun Tzu

While the RNB’s certainly have some advantages due to more extensive resources, they also have several clear and distinct disadvantages -specifically:

  • Longer lines of supply and communication (multiple levels of management; larger numbers of employees; national contracts, which may require specific materials and suppliers). These tend to slow the decision-making process.
  • Specific policies and procedures that may thwart innovation and flexibility. To overcome whatever advantages size alone can afford, it is absolutely necessary for the smaller business to understand the weaknesses inherent in "bigger" and to act in ways that the larger company cannot. The advantages of maneuverability and rapid decision-making are squandered by the small business who only changes course slowly and reluctantly.

SMB Tip: Be bold, embrace change, and understand that your success is related to using the benefits that come from having the leaner, more efficient organization.


"To not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues."…Sun Tzu

In business, as in warfare, it is the unexpected that causes the greatest damage. Planning, preparation, and a commitment to spending the resources necessary on the decision-making process are vital to successfully navigating today’s complex business environment. Committing time, capital, and people to planning and preparation may not seem as productive as "doing something." But these resources are not being wasted-they are being invested.

SMB Tip: If you don’t have a written three to five-year business plan, updated periodically, you are not really prepared. (P.S.: To me, periodically means quarterly.)


"What is of the greatest importance in war is extraordinary speed: One cannot afford to neglect opportunity."…Sun Tzu

Consumers and clients want instant gratification, 24/7 service, and a supplier or vendor who responds not only well, but quickly. Asking clients to wait two weeks for a price or a proposal is really asking them to look elsewhere.

SMB Tip: On the highway, speed kills – in business, as in war, it is a lack of speed that is deadly. Work incessantly to reduce delivery, response, design, manufacturing, installation or implementation cycle times.


Sun Tzu: The Art of War: Battling the Big Dogs, Part I

Sometime around 400 B.C. a Chinese general named Sun Tzu, prepared a text that has become known as The Art of War. The advice contained therein is still relevant today, especially where it pertains to the issue of small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) versus large regional or national corporations (RNB).

You may think you know everything about doing battle with the big guys, but, as Sun Tzu says, sometimes you’ve got to know when to hold them, when to fold them, and when to run.

Over the next three issues I’m going to explore some of his principles that have proven to be worth their weight in gold.

Winning Without Battle

"Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle…They conquer by strategy." -Sun Tzu

The SMB do not possess the same resources of land, capital, and staying power as the RNB. Therefore, they must compete without pitting themselves directly against their larger, stronger opponent. They must use guile and learn to use their enemies’ strengths against them.

SMB Tip: When possible, locate near enough to an RNB to benefit from the traffic that their large advertising budgets produce. Capitalize on their efforts. While Wal-Mart may be hard to compete with, if you locate near them and do enough great things that they don’t, you’ll easily benefit from the traffic overflow.


"Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril." -Sun Tzu

Knowing and understanding the practices, procedures, policies, and tactics of your RNB competitors is an absolute necessity for the SMB trying to survive and prosper in an environment populated by larger, stronger competitors. Equally important is the willingness to truly analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your own organization. The leader of any successful company does not see the world (and his position in it) as he or she would like it to be-he or she sees it as it really is!

SMB Tip: To know about the competition, visit them–physically and virtually on their web sites. Look at what they do, and honestly compare it to what you do. And when you come up lacking, fix it at once. To know yourself, make sure your company has a vision, a purpose, and stated core values. Then create a program that guarantees that every employee and associate knows and understands them.

With the advent of the internet, and the low cost of technology, the ability to obtain information on your competitors is available to even the smallest business, especially if they are a public company, as most RNB’s are. Thanks for reading and check back for part II!


See Yourself Successful

As a professional speaker, I’ve had the unique opportunity to travel the world and meet successful people from all walks of life. After speaking with and surveying these people, I’ve come up with some traits they all seem to share. The one I wish to share with you in this lesson is: the ability to "See Yourself Successful."

Successful people really believe if you can "see yourself successful," you can be successful. If you can see yourself doing something in your mind, you can do it. But if you can’t even see yourself doing something in your mind, how can you possibly expect to do it in real life.

Have you ever said to yourself, or heard someone else say, "I can’t imagine doing that in my wildest dreams?" Well, if you can’t do it in your wildest dreams what makes you think you can do it in real life? You know as well as I do; it’s a lot easier doing this stuff in our dreams.

So, see it! See yourself successful. What you’re trying to do is create a picture of what you want your success to be in your mind. That is what successful people do: they create visions.

Successful salespeople and successful business people also create visions. First and foremost they create visions for themselves. They create visions for both their lives and careers. And because they’re able to create visions for themselves they are also able to create and communicate visions for their clients.

But, after all, isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing. Are you just there to sell them whatever the heck you can and get out? Or are you there to help the client create a vision of what they really want and need. Are you just there to sell them the first thing that comes out of your bag, or are you there as a resource for your clients, who is there to sell solutions to any problems they might have?

Yet, how can you possibly begin to create a vision for someone else, if you can’t even create a vision for yourself?

I want you to think about a person you all know. I’m sure every one of you knows an, "excuse maker." The kind of people who always tell us how successful they could have been, but: "I never have any luck; I don’t get the good leads; my manager hates me." We all know people like that. Yet, even if those people were right about all their excuses, I would still have one question for them: how come you still could not even see yourself successful? Nobody stops you from dreaming and if you don’t have good dreams, all that’s left are NIGHTMARES!

I am convinced one of the single, biggest reasons salespeople do not do business is that they simply give up. They don’t see themselves successful, they only see themselves failing. So you know what they need? They need a reason. So they start to pre-judge people to decide ahead of time why they won’t buy. "Oh, she won’t buy from me, I’m sure we’re too expensive;" "I’m positive he can’t afford to do business with us. Why bother to ask;" "They had a bad experience with us a few years ago, there’s no need to call again." It’s almost as if they reject the prospect before the prospect rejects them.

So SEE IT! See yourself successful; visualize it. Create a picture of what you want your success to be in your mind.