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.

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