Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
ART OF WAR: for Women in Business
“Business is war.” So says Kevin O’Leary, billionaire
businessman and regular participant in the wildly successful U.S. TV program, Shark Tank.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Chinese sage Sun Tzu
(pronounced “SUN Zuh”) wrote a classic military text, The
Art of War, and recently various authors have praised it as being quite
applicable to business. One such author is a marketing multi-millionaire, Dan
Lok, who subtitled his adaptation, Strategies
for Winning in Business Today.
and Me readers seem unlikely to be quite so fierce in commerce as
a Kevin O’Leary or a Sun Tzu, but there are some lessons in The Art of War that you could translate
into business success.
Your Enemy and the Battleground
Information is key in business and war. Some facts you
obtain through observation and open sources. Some you buy. Some you get from
Well informed, you then need to choose battlegrounds
favorable to your capabilities and compete with weaker competitors. Timing may
become critical, too, as these factors will change.
You want to match your strengths against your competitors’
weaknesses, and avoid competing against well-established products or services.
Information helps you make these selections in your planning.
Dan Lok writes, “No one plans to fail, they just fail to
Just as information is of value, so can be disinformation.
You will want to shield your plans from the prying eyes of your competitors.
You may want them to believe what isn’t true. As Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth
advised, “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent beneath it.”
Looking good helps, also. Appearances count. Cosmetics can convince.
“Optics” has become a buzz-word.
While using deception in shielding your plans from
competitors, you want to maintain a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness,
especially with respect to allies, employees, customers, and civil authorities.
A successful leader needs to be respected and trusted.
Your friends and followers will appreciate your constancy
and predictability, but your competitors will take advantage of knowing your
plans, so use your creativity to make rapid, clever alterations from time to
Find your competition’s weaknesses and focus your efforts
there. Better yet, find unoccupied, open opportunities, niches, to move into.
Once you make a move, do it decisively. Half-measures often fail. Crush the competition, if present, and then
hold the market tenaciously, giving your customers excellent value for their
Follow up your victory. Don’t become complacent. Don’t let
the competition recover.
In business and in war, to keep morale strong, your allies
and associates need to benefit from your victories. Michael LeBoeuf called this
Greatest Management Principle. It boils down to rewarding
good behavior and punishing poor.
Treating your troops fairly, generously, will make them
likely to behave loyally. Similarly, reward your allies.
Punishments may be needed. Do so reluctantly, however, as
those punished will resent it, even as observers will learn from it. Anything
can be over-done, however, and as effective as Sun’s beheadings were for
shaping up the Concubine Army, we cannot recommend them.
Do not do your “enemy” a small harm. This breeds
resentment. When you strike, strike decisively. Try to make them incapable of
The same factors that hamper you may impede your
competition or create need in potential customers. Overcoming “barriers to
entry” puts you in position to succeed, strengthening you. “Every knock is a
boost,” someone other than Confucius or Sun Tzu has noted.
As conditions change, your tactics must also. Major changes
may require changing even your strategies. Presumably, your goals will remain
Others have said it, if Sun Tzu did not, “The best plans
last only until the battle begins.” Be prepared to change.
Business competition is not war, but close to it. We can
profit by taking seriously the advice written two millennia ago by a Chinese
sage: choose our battles, advance with speed and deception and determination,
reward and punish frequently and appropriately.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a former Harvard science
professor. He still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their
books via his business website, http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. His life's central theme has been his half-century romance with his wife, Tina Su Cooper, now quadriplegic for thirteen
years due to multiple sclerosis, receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as
discussed in his