Guest Author: Bryan Clayton
Bryan Clayton is a serial Entrepreneur and Co-founder of GreenPal
He helps consumers source lawncare providers via an online marketplace.
“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
On the battlefield 2500 years ago Sun Tzu could not have ever known that his philosophies and teachings on warfare strategy would be immortal doctrines implemented into business strategy today. His ancient text, The Art of War, has been highly regarded as a source of insightful strategic thinking for the Business world. But what do military generals and entrepreneurs have in common? Are there parallels that can be drawn from military strategy and entrepreneurialism? Anyone who has ran a business knows the feeling that sometimes its outright war. Businesses by nature are competitive with each another. Sun Tzu’s thesis is to “win all without fighting,” or to win market share without heading into a bloody battle against your competitors.
Sizing up the competition
Sun Tzu says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Sun Tzu advises us to intensely observe our competitors to identify what areas in the market place they are underserving, mainly with the intention to avoid a head on conflict, and a possible financial bloodbath. By utilizing innovative technologies and consumer trends, he advises us to “know our competition’s weakness as well as our own, and more importantly, our strengths.” Ultimately, the discipline is to attack the opportunities in the marketplace underserved by competition, while not confronting your competition directly on their strengths.
New Product Development
Sun Tzu says, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
Sun Tzu’s teachings educate entrepreneurs as to the practicality of lean product development methodology. In its essence lean product development is creating a minimal version of the product with basic, core features. Starting by test launching that product to gain early user feedback while improving it little by little throughout the user feedback cycle process. This conserves resources and aligns the team’s attention on the actual product itself. Once the product is improved time and time again to a version with features influenced by user feedback, then it will be perfected for a full scale launch. This is a “win” before going to war. Sun Tzu says, “Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
Sun Tzu Says, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death”
Without happy loyal team members, your startup or company will probably not achieve greatness. Sun Tzu teaches us, as the leader of your team you must focus on growing yourself by serving your people; leadership is servitude. If you care about them, they will care about the organization’s success. A unified culture will be instrumental in success of your team’s success and will add real purpose to your company’s mission, and why it even exists. While your competitors will be dealing with redundant issues such as employee turnover and quality control, effective and authentic leadership will enable you to focus on the strategic direction and the growth of your company. Sun Tzu’s teachings are practical, focused principles that can guide entrepreneurs and business leaders have clarity of their vision, their mission, and their commitment to the success of their teams’ goals and objectives. While it might seem farfetched for entrepreneurs to relate themselves to warfare generals, Sun Tzu’s philosophies are relevant, and are implemented by successful business owners of today and ignored by the unsuccessful.