“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” – Sun Tzu
Making money is hard. It’s damn hard because it’s what everyone else wants to do, too. This leaves you in competition everyday with people who may be smarter, more nimble, have more resources, and are trying to take your customers away from you. Keeping this in mind, if we think about our business more like an army going into battle, we will start to realize some habitual mistakes.
Don’t Compete Against Their Strength:
“An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.” -Sun Tzu
In battle, you never attack an enemy where he is strongest. If he has more ships, you lure him onto land. If he has a bigger army, you bombard him with ships.
We haven’t caught onto this in the business world, and have a bad habit of attacking our competitors where they’re strongest. We focus on what our competition specializes in and that’s where we tend to compete. Often in doing so, we fail because we’re fighting on their terms.
Where is your competition weakest? What part of their business do they neglect? What product lines are in the most remote areas of their store? What services do you know they offer, but aren’t found on their website?
Where your competitor is weak, you must be stronger. If you aim for the strong center, you’ll both end up wasting your resources in attrition. Find the weak flank, where they haven’t focused their resources and tap into that opportunity. Seizing that market will take less investment and reap higher ROI.
Speed Requires Preparation:
“To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.” -Sun Tzu
If you march to battle not knowing your destination, the terrain, or having an inkling of where the enemy is, you’ll lose. The same goes for innovations in business.
With new ideas, the first one out of the gate often wins. But if you rush the preparation, and don’t have every variable accounted for, you’ll often make costly mistakes, leaving your competition to pass you in tortoise-and-the-hare style.
Don’t roll out a new product idea until you’ve taken the time you need to prepare properly. Learn what you need to learn, and, mostly importantly, try to anticipate different scenarios. Then, roll it out quickly to crack open and dominate a new market before your competition knows what has happened.
“Avail yourself to any helpful circumstance over and beyond the ordinary rules. According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.” -Sun Tzu
If you need to modify your battle plan to get the high ground, do it. If they get the high ground, withdraw if you must and don’t be stubborn.
We all think we’re flexible, but flexibility isn’t just in our minds. It should be built into the way you run your business. Are you able to react to plunging oil prices, a doubling of demand for your services, or other seismic changes in circumstance?
Your team is the epicentre of your business’s flexibility. If you build a culture of favouring pragmatic decisions over ideological ones, your team should be there to strategically change your plans to always match the conditions.