About 2,500 years ago, a Chinese warrior named Sun Tzu wrote 13 manuscripts that became known asThe Art of War. Upon reading the manuscripts, the King summoned Sun Tzu and asked for a demonstration. Since no soldiers were available, the King provided 180 women who were outfitted with military gear and divided into two platoons. When the platoons failed to follow Sun Tzu instructions, the leaders of each platoon were beheaded. Needless to say, from then on his instructions were followed.

Based on his writings and demonstration, Sun Tzu was appointed commander of the King’s armies. As commander, he never lost. In most cases, he defeated opponents before actual fighting took place.

In recent times, professionals and teachers alike recognized that these writings also apply to the warfare of business. A company, like an army, battles opponents to obtain the spoils that come with victory, and in other times battles just for survival.

The following brief interpretation of Sun Tzu’s writings covers some of the lessons that can be learned to help a business organization.

1. When it comes to the planning process, be flexible and incorporate the most current and reliable intelligence the company has gathered.

2. It is in your company’s best interest to become stronger from a competitor’s demise by acquiring key personnel, customers, and other assets. Also, when you engage in a campaign to increase market share and profitability, victory must be swift and the rewards shared.

3. The best strategy is the one that will help your company beat competitors without confrontation and allows you to focus your resources where you can be most profitable.

4. In order to defeat your competitors, you must take the offensive.

5. Attack your competitors both directly and indirectly. Use a combination of both methods, especially against companies larger than your own.

6. Look for ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper while delivering the same or better level of quality and service. When it comes to new products and services, be the leader, not the follower.

7. Do not fight battles you cannot win and be prepared to adapt quickly to changes in the marketplace.

8. Based on your company’s expertise and resources, there are some market segments that must not be pursued, some geographic areas you cannot properly serve, and customers you should avoid.

9. If your competitor fails to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace, most likely the company’s financial and/or human resources have been exhausted.

10. Know the marketplace and acquire the resources that will give you the ability to foresee the changes and growth opportunities. Listen to your customers so you can provide the products and services they need.

11. Pursue market segments that are poorly served by competitors and take advantage of your competitor’s unreadiness. When financial and other incentives do not seem to motivate the people in your organization, try mechanisms of discomfort.

12. In order to be successful in existing and new market segments, you must possess the tools, materials, skilled personnel, financial resources, willingness to learn from mistakes, ability to adapt, and commitment for the long term.

13. It is easier to beat competitors when you know who they are, what they are doing, and how well they do it, but don’t let competitors know what’s going on in your organization.

Guest columnist Mark Moore provides temporary management and consultant services to help increase profit, cash flow, and sales revenue. He can be reached via e-mail at markmoore56@hotmail.com.

Publication date: 09/29/2003