Sun Tzu's the Art of War applied to the modern business world, planning in particular.
|PART ONE: LAYING PLANS
1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.
In War: This seems pretty clear. War is a common occurrence on the geopolitical stage, always has been and probably always will be. It serves several vital functions, including empire expansion and conflict resolution. To master this art form is to stay alive on the world stage, and so it is of vital importance to the State.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: If you are a general or officer or soldier, your business is your State, the governing entity you serve. There are only three ways to increase one’s business; increase the client/customer base, increase the sales amount of each purchase, and increase the amount of purchases per year. Central to this is acquiring and keeping clients/customers.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: There will always be competition in business, and besting your competition is essential not only to any business’ success, but to its very survival.
2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
In War: Sun Tzu is quite correct to reinforce his first statement by explaining that war is a matter of life death for the state.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: As clients are so vital to the business, interaction with them must be undertaken with knowledge and inquiry and deliberation.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: The danger and necessity of competition means deliberation is just as important in dealing with your competition as with your potential clients or customers.
3. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.
In War: To be victorious in battle, the general must be deliberate in his actions, and this statement prepares the general to learn the five constant factors to be taken into account in one’s deliberations.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: The following five factors are as important in acquiring new clients as any other factors.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: They are just as important in dealing with the competition, perhaps even more so; because if you didn’t have any competition, you wouldn’t have to work so hard to get the new clients or to keep them.
4. These are (1) The Moral Law (2) Heaven (3) Earth (4) The Commander (5) Method and Discipline.
In War: Any military conflict entails these five factors.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Each of these factors has its equivalent when pursuing clients...
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy:... As well as besting the competition.
5, 6. The Moral Law
This causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler and insures the loyalty and obedience of the armies.
In War: When the general has the moral law on his side, he will acquire and retain his people’s support and the armies’ loyalty. Although a leader without the moral law may still acquire the people’s support and the loyalty of the armed forces, he will not be able to retain them, as in the examples of Adolf Hitler or Alexander the Great.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Your client base will reflect the political and social values epitomized by your company. When your company violates the moral law, such as employing illegal manufacturing tactics or indulging in other illegal or unethical practices, it will filter down and find its way to your clients and tarnish the image of the company. Apple Computers recently endured a public relations nightmare from the so-called revelation of allegedly inhumane work environments in China, even though these conditions were not actual. The moral law, even the perception of it, is crucial. For neighborhood businesses that rely on repeat community business, this is even more true.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: When your company loses touch with the moral law, your competition can co-opt it by comparison even if that company is just as guilty or even guiltier. Again, it’s all about perception and your company must be seen to hold the moral law or your competition will be. Therefore, never sacrifice the moral law when dealing with the competition.
Militarily speaking, Heaven includes night and day, the seasons, the weather, cold and heat.
In War: Without taking these things into account, no military strategy can fully succeed. General George Washington’s crossing the Delaware, Pharaoh's defeat at the Reed Sea at the hands of Moses; innumerable battles throughout history can be attributed to the clever use of night and day as well as the seasonal considerations.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: These are important elements in business. Seasonal changes bring changes in stock, in sales campaigns. Holidays, long weekends, even the occasional leap year can effect your company’s business. So be quick to capitalize on these elements. Are you a dentist? Think about offering deals in the month of November, just after the heavy Halloween candy splurge. Likewise, your employees’ vacations will come into play when scheduling your year’s business; don’t neglect this element when putting together your business strategy.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: The same seasonal influences are either working for or against your competition. Are they taking advantages of holiday specials, varying store hours depending on the seasons? If they are, you may have to one-up them. Be creative. Think about midnight shopping events. Is there a day that your competition closes every week? Try to open up on that day and make sure your community knows it. Do you run a restaurant? Find out if your competition is changing their menus with the season, then either do it better or do it differently. But you must do something.
Includes distances and topography.
In War: In biblical battles, chariots were often drawn into muddy areas where their speed and agility were countermanded. One of the reasons the United States is so rarely attacked domestically is its geographic location, quite distant from most of its enemies. Israel, on the other hand, must keep distance very much in mind, as it is physically surrounded by its enemies.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Is your client base all local? Is there a way you can extend your client base? The internet is becoming the center of world commerce and will extend your reach beyond your immediate topography. You may also think about reaching out to neighboring communities who may not know your company even exists. Think about some local advertising in neighboring communities; people often travel to towns around their own, and that’s business you could get a piece of. Sun Tzu would recommend you not be controlled by the elements of Earth, but that you control them whenever and where ever and however possible.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: You must extend your client base beyond that of your competition. This is a plain and simple fact. If your competition has a wider client base than yours, their business will be more successful than yours and yours will be less successful than it could be; it may even be doomed. Also, think about distance when confronting your competition. Are you retailers who deal with the same sales reps? Think about carrying a brand that is new to your region; you could get a good price if you convince the sales rep you’re expanding his client base, which you are. This will enable you to undersell your competition as well as innovating by bringing in new and exciting (and seemingly exclusive) merchandise.
9. The Commander
For Sun Tzu, the Commander must be wise, virtuous, sincere, benevolent, courageous and unyielding.
In War: A successful general or commander uses wisdom, sincerity, benevolence and strictness to win the loyalty and utmost performance of his forces. If he uses them with courage and unyielding dedication and wisdom, his success on the battlefield will be greatly encouraged.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Are you a CEO or other high-level exec? On that big scale, you’re the commander. Are you a branch manager? You could think of yourself as an officer, with soldiers beneath you and commanders above (and to a large extent this is true). But you can also think of yourself as the commander of your branch, with both officers and soldiers under you (and this is true to a nearly equal extent). The difference is basically how much responsibility you’re ready to assume for yourself and for those under you, and how much part you’re willing to take in leading your business into a more profitable future.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: If you’re on a certain level in the chain of command you will probably be dealing with others at that same level. As a salesman, for example, you’re unlikely to be doing business with the manager of a competing business. The manager of the western division of a huge chain like Ralph’s supermarket will be unlikely to have any contact with a bag boy at Von’s, unless it’s as a customer or as a spy. This means two things; you can devise how your competition is doing by learning all you can about those on your level in the enemy camps, and you can also elevate your own position by dealing with those on a higher level in the competition’s camp. For example, interaction with the manager of a competing store may actually eventuate in a job offer for you, perhaps a raise or a promotion as well. Since soldiers generally deal with soldiers and officer with officers, you as an aggressive soldier or officer may want to deal with your betters as this may elevate your place in business.
10. Method and Discipline
The marshaling of the forces on the battlefield, proper placement into divisions, rank among officers, maintenance of roads for delivery of necessary supplies, and military expenditures.
In War: This is the practical essence of a battle. Where to put which troops and why, how to keep them supplied and how to pay for those supplies. Many battles are won by starving an army, or cutting off its water supply. Similar embargoes are a popular indirect method of warfare which employs this dictum in the modern era.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Organize your company to best serve your clients. Suss out your weak employees and retrain or replace them. Think about who you’re putting behind the counter or at the phone or the reception desk. These are the people your client sees; they are the faces of your business. You may have stock workers eager for a promotion to sales who lack the face you want to put forward; be creative and find some other way to promote them. But don’t sacrifice your relationship with a client or customer to appease an employee unless there is some moral question and your employee is in touch with the moral law. In that case, always do what is right over what is expedient.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: How well is your competition using the strengths of its forces? What kind of salesforce do they have? How is there technical support group or their general profile in the community? If weak, try to exploit that. If strong, let that inspire you to make your own forces even stronger in that area. And when you are dealing face-to-face with the competition, such as at a trade show or other industry conference, think about whom you send; what impression will they give? You may not want them to know how good your best people are, as we’ll discuss later. So it’s not important to impress your competition, but for them to believe what you want them to believe, which may be to leave them demonstratively nonplussed. Most important, however, is to gain new clients, so you don’t want to send less than your best to a trade show. Perhaps you can coach them on how not to reveal themselves to your competition even as they wow your shared client pool.
11. These five constant elements should be familiar to every general; he who knows them will be victorious and he does not know them will fail.
In War: No general would lead his weakest divisions into battle first, or attack without an understanding of the topography, the effect of the seasons, the time of day, or without the loyalty of his forces.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: These are the five factors that will put you into closer touch with your client base.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: These are the five factors that your competition will exploit to a greater or lesser degree, and which you can deploy against your enemies when possible.
12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of comparison, in this way:
In War: The strength of one position is best measured against the strength of the enemy position. In battle, strength is relative.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Success is always relative. The strength of your position can be judged against the strength of your client. By this we mean, are you getting everything you can out of your client, or are they taking their business elsewhere to any degree? For example, if you have an occasional sale, that’s stronger than no sale at all. But what you want is every sale; every purchase your customer can make from you, they should and must do. And if they are absolutely loyal to you, are there other things you can offer them? Once you’ve got the client, you can always increase the amount of each purchase and the frequency of the purchases. They may be loyal clients, but are they referring other clients to you? Could they be referring more? You could always be in a stronger position with your clients.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: The relativity of your strength is even more important when dealing with the competition. There are only so many clients and only so many services; your competition’s strength comes at your expense. Your strength will come from the reduction of their resources and strengths. That’s just the way it is in business; it isn’t personal. And remember to stay in harmony with the moral law even when treating your competition this way. Just because you see the inverse ratio correlation of your strength/weakness and that of your competition doesn’t mean you have to do anything dishonest or unethical, it only means you understand the nature of your engagement.
13.1. Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral Law?
In War: Which commander is in harmony with his forces? Which holds the moral high ground? In World War II, the ultimately successful commanders Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin all held the loyalty of their troops, even if Stalin cannot be said to have held the high moral ground in his own governance. Yet the ultimately unsuccessful commander Adolf Hitler, who killed many fewer people than Stalin, was not in harmony with his generals or with his general forces, resulting in a variety of assassination attempts and failed coups from within his own forces.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: If you lose touch with the moral law your clients/customers will find out and they will abandon you. And as a less practical but just as important ethical consideration, don’t compromise your integrity even at great profit and no risk of being revealed. You don’t have to be a thief or liar to prevail in business, especially in dealing with clients. (Deception, which later will be shown to be crucial to dealing with the competition, is not to be used with clients or customers or you will lose touch with the moral law.)
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Here your parameters are wider in terms of ethics and deception. While you should always stay within the confines of the law, techniques such as deception are recommended when dealing with competition and won’t endanger your moral profile.
13.2. Which of the two generals has the most ability?
In War: This is vital. Any battle comes down (or goes up) to the general, and the choices which are made derive from the general’s ability; ability to understand the influences of the elements, of terrain and weather, ability to gage his own troops’ strengths and weaknesses and account for them in devising strategy. It is not always the general’s ability, however; Rommel was a great general and so was Patton. It is not always the general, but this can be and often is a decisive influence on the outcome of battle.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Here, the other general is your client/customer. If you’re a sales rep, this is the manager or buyer you have to win over with your sales pitch. And in so dealing, you have to ask yourself which is the more skilled. Do you or your sales force know more about your products or services than your customers? It’s a must that you do. A pool supply company must provide all the necessary information and also be ready to provide information which is more arcane; they’re more than a local pool supply supplier, they should be perceived as the local experts. Elevate your business above the precise service or goods you provide and become industry experts, giving away advice to win your customer’s respect, confidence and loyalty.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: If there are two pool supply stores in a town, which will be more successful? All other things being equal (same products, same prices, same store hours) it will come down to who is more trusted by the community. Who knows more, who is always there with the necessary information when it comes down to it? On the other hand, which store has clerks that just shrug and shake their heads and don’t know their products? Which store’s clerks know enough to recommend products to suit their customer’s needs even if that product isn’t normally in stock? Can the item be ordered? That’s a way to increase the amount of the purchase and will probably increase purchase frequency as well. In this era, information is power. If your competition has more information than you do, you will be at a disadvantage.
13.3. With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
In War: Heaven (weather and the seasons) and Earth (topography and distances) are crucial. Hitler’s ground forces failed to survive their winter trek toward Moscow because of these very factors, and the outcome of World War II was heavily influenced by the outcome of this failed campaign.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: You’re not the only one concerned with distance and season and other considerations. How do they effect your clients and customers? If you business caters to the needs of parents, you have to know their accessibility to you is limited according to their children’s schedules, and that is dependent on the time of the year. So cater to your customer or client’s needs by varying your business hours. Movie theaters started having midweek mommy and me showings which were at the right time of day, a discount price and friendly to people with children. The theaters filled otherwise empty seats by seeing several specific needs in their client base; something to do with the kids during the day, a way for a busy parent to get out of the house and see a movie, social interaction with other families, often simply a way to get out of the heat.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Is your competition savvy enough to capitalize on the effects that Heaven and Earth have on your mutual client pool? Are they doing something you could improve upon? How do these elements effect your competition? For example, if you’re a local book shop, your biggest competition is Amazon.com. Why? Because they are faced with none of the challenges of Earth and Heaven which you are as a local shop. Those aren’t the only benefits of online commerce, but it’s a good example.
13.4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
In War: A sloppy army is inefficient, given to desertion and is doomed to failure. Discipline is necessary to nurture obedience, which is vital on the battlefield.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Is your business well organized and smoothly managed? It had better be. Is your client’s life well organized and smoothly managed? You’d better hope not, or what need would they have of you? If you don’t see a need, you may have to create the perception of one, and then fill it. A lot of people are disorganized and need help with this general disorganization, so there’s plenty of opportunity for the savvy and well-organized commander here.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: How well organized is your competition? The more organized and more smoothly run, the more dangerous they are to you. I’m not suggesting corporate espionage, mind you, or any other criminal aggression. But if they are very well organized and smoothly run, you will have to be even more so.
13.5. On which side is the army stronger?
In War: This relates not only to size but also to moral and spiritual readiness. When the general is in harmony with his troops and has the moral high ground, his army should be at maximum strength.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Your army is your salesforce, your accounting department, human resources, stock, buyers. It depends on how big or small your business is (even though, as we’ll see, the practices for each are the same). But the resources you have to deal with are not the same, obviously. A small investment firm of five or six principles, plus a lawyer, an accountant, a receptionist and maybe a few assistants, is a different animal than, say, the Disney Company, which has hundreds of divisions and subdivisions and hundreds of thousands of employees. But what levels the playing field is this; an army is still an army, and you only have to be stronger than your enemy on the field. Macy’s may outgun you in size and sheer volume, but a customer is the same for you as for them; the prize is equal, and you have as much a chance to win their business as your competition. So when a client or customer is in your sites, you have to know if your forces are not only better informed, but also stronger. These strengths will come down to discipline. For example; a single parent knows from experience how to save money and resist a sales pitch. Does your salesman possess strengths, such as charm or the ability to identify a need, that will overpower the parent’s resistance of something that may have seemed frivolous? Is your buyer of a stronger will than the sales rep, or is he paying too much and costing your company money? Strength is relative.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: If you maintain the moral high ground and can follow some of the other tenants set out in this book, you will be stronger than your competition. Here, their forces may be comparable to yours but better; a larger sales staff, a better deal with his supplier. You’ll have to know your enemy’s strengths in order to match and better them on the field.
13.6. On which side are the officers and men better trained?
In War: Tu Yu quotes Wang Tzu as saying: "Without constant practice, the officers will be nervous and undecided when mustering for battle; without constant practice, the general will be wavering and irresolute when the crisis is at hand.”
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: We return to information as power. You and everyone in your business must be seen as an expert in that field, and in related fields. The greater expertise you can offer in a wider range of fields, the stronger you will be with your customers and clients. Your salesforce should be trained not only in how to make change and keep the sales floor clean. They should know everything about their products, down to the smallest detail possible. This is crucial with products that require expertise, such as cars or electronics. You or your representatives must know more than your customers about everything always.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: You must also know more about everything than your competition, even when this means knowing more about your shared client base. Do you know your regular customer’s first names? You should. All things being equal, that will decide a client’s loyalty.
In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
In War: This has a direct link to an army’s discipline, which is contingent upon consistency of both reward and punishment. It is key to the harmony between a general and his army; without consistency of both reward and punishment, misdeeds will flourish, good deeds will dissipate, discipline will have no meaning and order will break down. Such an army cannot function.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Reward your clients and customers with crucial industry information as well as the best products. Reward them with consideration and politeness. Honor the sales rep with knowledge about his family, their health, ask about it. They’ll be more ready to give you better deals, come to you first with products that may quickly sell out. As for punishment, when you’re correcting your employees, this has to be done with consistency and effectiveness. Without it, you won’t have discipline in your ranks, you’ll lose control of your army and your campaign will collapse into failure. You should not be tyrannical, as we’ll see, but you must be firm and consistent.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: It’s not for you to punish your competition with anything other than greater success. But you can consider how much discipline they use in maintaining control over their company. Perhaps too much, which can create a hostile work atmosphere. If this is the case, perhaps some of their better people would prefer to work in a more reasonable environment, such as yours. If you can acquire your competition’s strongest forces and use them, you should.
14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victor or defeat.
15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: Let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat: Let such a one be dismissed!
16. While heeding the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.
In War: New information helped the Persians defeat the Spartans at Thermopylae, and that’s just one of uncounted instances of improvising and changing tactics according to new information. It can turn the tide in either direction.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Information is crucial, in every instance at all times. This can hardly be stressed enough. Remember that your customers don’t always need to buy something. But they’ll always take some free information, which will encourage them to buy later, and to buy from you.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Knowing more about your industry will give you the advantage over your competition, plain and simple. Keep up on the trends, know which ones to join and which to avoid. Be aware of what is happening in your industry and in related industries. Do you run a fried chicken franchise? A regional beef recall is something you should know about, because it creates an opportunity.
17.According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.
In War: as Chang Yu puts it, "While the main laws of strategy can be stated clearly enough for the benefit of all and sundry, you must be guided by the actions of the enemy in attempting to secure a favorable position in actual warfare."
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: New information needs to be acted upon, quickly and decisively, or it is of no use. Knowing your customer’s name is pointless if you don’t use it in addressing them. Knowing that leather boots are on the way in or out will help you make the most of your inventory budget for the upcoming season, but wait too long and the price of the products will change or their availability will change.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Less so than your client or customer, your competition is hungry for the same information you are, and they will act on it first. As we’ll see, being there first can make all the difference; it is a huge advantage.
18. All warfare is based on deception.
19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
In War: Inflatable tanks were used in World War II to misdirect German forces into a defense against a decoy operation; it’s one of countless uses of deception on the battlefield that yielded success for their generals.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Here is a gorgeous example of learning from Sun Tzu not directly but indirectly. You do not want to deceive your customer or client. First of all, it’s unethical. Secondly, they’ll know and you’ll lose touch with that crucially important moral truth. Good advice for war, not so much when dealing with your clients or customers.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Here Sun Tzu’s advice can be taken directly. You do want to deceive your competition. Don’t let them know what you’re going to buy for next season, you may want to give them some misinformation while you’re at it. Frankly, it serves them right if they buy on your recommendation and don’t research things, don’t really know their industry or their product. Don’t clue them into a new website that’s chalk full of industry data you can use to win your customer’s loyalty. Fake them out, cover your tracks, let them get any information which they do wind up with in spite of you, not because of you.
21. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.
22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
In War: Wang Tzu suggested a successful general toys with his opponent like a cat does with a mouse, feigning immobility and then suddenly springing upon them.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Again, you don’t want to deceive your clients or customers. You don’t want to evade or irritate them. In this case, let’s learn indirectly from Sun Tzu and employ the opposite approach.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: But, as before, when dealing with your competition you can take Sun Tzu much more literally. Let your competition think you’re weak where you’re strong. Are you in real estate? Let the other agents think you’re strapped for properties even as you line up that big house in the suburbs. Surely, don’t tell them about the house before you lock it down.
23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
In War: Mexican forces played mariachi music day and night to prevent the defenders from getting any sleep and to break them down mentally, spiritually and physically. The entire Norte Americano force was destroyed.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Here we can extrapolate some information directly from Sun Tzu. In general, people don’t buy things because they want them. Sometimes they do, but less and less in these trying economies. For the most part, people don’t buy things they want, they acquire the things they need. With recessions, austerity, bank collapses, major cities declaring bankruptcy; people forgo luxuries. But they get the food they need, the clothes they need. Now think about your customers and clients. If you only provide luxury items, you’ll be in a position to lose their business to the economy. But if you can turn your luxury into a necessity, you’ll have a better chance of retaining that client base. In other words, if your customer is taking their ease (forgoing luxury items) you should give them no rest (reposition your goods or services as necessities, not luxuries). How? Create a need. Do you run an iced cream shop? That’s a luxury item for sure. But you know what? Sometimes in this hectic world people need to take a little time out from their busy schedules, from the summer heat, just to relax, rejuvenate. Sometimes a few minutes in a cool iced cream parlor can make the difference between a lovely day and a case of heatstroke; that pause to refresh could ward off a stress heart attack. Market your Summer Survival Sundae appropriately.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Here, we can be even more direct. Don’t let your competition get the upper hand ever. Keep them scrambling to keep up with your new promotions, your ever-increasing reputation as an industry expert and a friend to the community. Run them ragged.
23.1. If his forces are united, separate them.
In War: Always split an army into two smaller portions, if possible; it makes surrounding them easier and surrounding an enemy is an excellent way to ensure its defeat.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Any car sales professional will tell you; selling to an individual is easier than to a couple, because more people mean more opportunities for skepticism and ultimately loss of the sale. Timeshare hucksters love to separate a man from his wife because he’s much easier to sell. Car mechanics and car salesmen love to see a woman come in alone, it’s money in the bank. I’m not saying you should conduct yourself in this manner, but it is a mortal fact in business that the fewer people you have to convince (or conquer), the better your chances of success.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: It won’t be easy to create a chasm within your competition’s infrastructure, but it’s possible. You can poach the best members of the team, which will naturally cause a rift. You can use spies (discuss later) to this end. You can turn your competitors against one another by rising above and letting them fight it out for second place. You can rob them of their resources by cornering as much of the market as you can, or by finding new and more effective ways to advertise.
24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
In War: Surprise, deception, striking where your enemy is weakest: these bring success on the battlefield.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Here, replace attack with provide for, as in; provide for your client where they are unprepared, provide for them when you are not expected. You’ll have a client for life. Do more. Go the extra mile. Remember that a customer buys a product from a salesperson, that’s what they expect. A client gets information from a consultant, that’s what they expect. If you treat your customer like a client and give them information, which is more than they expect, you’ll exceed their expectations and in so doing earn their repeated and growing business.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Here, use attack. Does your competition falter on customer service because they’re too big and don’t train their sales staff (as in the case of, say, Best Buy)? You can attack them there by providing the very best industry information from a well-trained staff. Does your competition only buy industrially made products? You might think about offering organic or locally produced products, which are often superior or which at least can be sold as being superior. If your competition zigs, think about zagging.
25. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.
26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus to do many calculations leads to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.
In War: Make your calculations and then keep them secret. Deception relies upon secrecy and planning, and war relies upon deception. In no instance in history has a general attacked without any forethought at all, nor has a general ever sent his battle plans to an opposing general. And when secrecy is lost, so goes that strategy and, in the absence of new strategy, so goes the battle.
In Business When Your Client/Customer is Your Enemy: Here, replace deception with discretion. Your clients/customers don’t need to know every fact of every product, but you do have to be able to throw out a few facts and then answer every possible question about that product. You should also be able to offer industry information as well as product information. For example, you can brag that your new Blu-Ray machine has a full gigabyte of memory (I’m pulling this out of a hat without any legitimate reference to the way these machines work) but that means a lot less than saying it has twice as much memory than any other machine it its price range.
In Business When Your Competition is Your Enemy: Here, use both deception and discretion. Tell them nothing. Keep your supply lines exclusive if you can. Keep your employees happy and loyal. Plan your strategies in secret and implement them without warning and your competition will be scrambling to keep up, which is just where you want them.