The world of business has been repeatedly described as a theater of war with corporations instead of nations fighting for supremacy. As in warfare, the parties constantly struggle to achieve a dominant position in a certain territory (market) using means that might sound familiar to those in the military – reconnaissance, offensive, defense, withdrawal, and attack. Thus, the principles of ancient generals are often applicable to the world of business, making amazing inspirational quotes to keep you motivated in dire times – or when you are winning. So, let’s take a look at one of the most famous – and most quoted – ones, Sun Tzu, and see how his ideas are applicable to the world of business.
Who was Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, philosopher, and military strategist who lived about 2,500 years ago. His name was actually Sun Wu – his best known Western name, Sun Tzu, translates as “Master Sun”. The theories he supposedly put in writing – the “Art of War” is attributed to him but his authorship couldn’t be confirmed – were highly praised in East Asia and later in the West, too, and applied to everything from sports to business and modern warfare.
“To be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues,” Sun Tzu wrote in his immortal work on military strategy. Being prepared, as in having a contingency plan for the case things don’t go as expected – or an unforeseen offensive from competitors – is vital, especially in today’s highly competitive business environment.
Moving with speed is vital in war and business but speed doesn’t mean haste. Instead, it means to be prepared with a response to any and all changes in the “field”. Having your company’s reactions prepared, reducing the time it takes to decide, can be vital.
“Those who arrive early at the place of conflict will be in a position to take initiative. Those who arrive late must hasten into action troubled,” Master Sun wrote. Taking initiative is often regarded as the key to victory both in combat and in the world of business. Sometimes, it’s a product release, other times, a price hike or even a price drop. Moving before the competition does is often the single decision that can mean the difference between success and failure.
Taking initiative doesn’t mean rushing into “battle” unprepared, though – refer to the quote above.
Knowledge is power
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be in peril,” China’s best-known general of all time wrote in his work. Finding your competitors’ weaknesses will give you an edge over them, a point of exposure that you will be able to attack. Knowing your own weaknesses, in turn, will give you the possibility to improve over time, and offer competitors a smaller exposure for them to attack.