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!

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