What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
Although The Art of War is very popular in China, being a classic of Chinese philosophy, it only started gaining popularity in the West during the last few decades, and many people still haven’t recognized all the brilliance it contains.
You may not have realized it, but a competition between businesses is a kind of war. While you may not be interested in bankrupting other companies, there are some who may be interested in bankrupting yours. And The Art of War is the perfect guide on how to deal with that.
Adapt to the situation
Sun Tzu said, “one’s victories in battle cannot be repeated – they take their form in response to inexhaustibly changing circumstances.”
There are no perfect strategies, nor perfect tactics. Every situation is different, and you need to be able to adapt to the situation in order to handle it in the best way possible. And the way you adapt to the situation depends on how well you are able to assess it.
Even better: if you can create the situation, you have complete control of it, and can lead the enemy to do your bidding. As Sun Tzu said, “the expert at battle seeks his victory from strategic advantage and does not demand it from his men.”
Knowledge is power
Sun Tzu said, “he who knows the enemy and himself will never in a hundred battles be at risk.”
In order to adapt to a situation, you need to know what is involved in it. Correctly assessing a situation involves knowing the resources available, the people involved, the “battlefield”, the enemy, and, of course, yourself. Not only the people who you are “commanding”, but also you, the “commander”: what are your weaknesses, and what are your strengths.
What decides a war are not the resources available, nor the amount of soldiers involved, but the commander’s ability to employ their strengths and hide their weaknesses.
Avoid direct confrontations
Sun Tzu said, “the highest excellence is to subdue the enemy’s army without fighting at all.”
While entering in direct competition with another company may seem tempting, especially if they are provoking you or acting offensively in some way, it is not a good idea to enter a fight if you are unsure of whether you are going to win or not. This is based on the principle concept, whether true or false, that no one has ever benefited from a prolonged war. If you aim for a direct confrontation, you must end it as quickly as you begin it.
As Sun Tzu said, “all warfare is based on deception.” Do your best to avoid direct competition, feigning compromises or alliances, and maintain peace for as long as possible, while also preparing yourself for economic war in the near future. Make sure that you are the one in control of the situation, instead of the enemy. This way, you can ensure that your company will thrive, even when having to deal with competitors much stronger and established that you are.