Read an Excerpt
Imagine that the great strategy mastermind Sun Tzu was with us today. Imagine that he, like a lot of career military men and women, went into business later in life as a CEO or joined the executive team of a small business. How would he adapt his principles from The Art of War to wage war and peace for his small business and build it into an empire?
That's the question at the heart of The Art of War for Small Business.
The military principles of Sun Tzu's classic, The Art of War, are timeless. They're adapted and brought to life daily by the companies and executives that use them. Sound strategists frequently bring Sun Tzu to life, often without necessarily recognizing the origins of their strategy in the sage's words from more than 2,500 years ago. How much more effective would they be if they studied Sun Tzu's direction and were able to apply it more intentionally? How much more effective would you be?
Small-business leaders must be smarter and stealthier than their larger, better-established adversaries. They'll fail if they try to match the big players tool for tool and move for move. And they'll wither on the vine if they just attempt to weather storms. This is particularly true in competitive industries with small and shrinking margins. Small businesses must win battles and achieve success with very lean budgets and comparatively few resources. The great news is that if interpreted and explained well, Sun Tzu provides profound insight to direct and inspire the moves of small-business leaders so that they can defeat their competition and dominate their markets.
To make Sun Tzu as relevant as possible, The Art of War for Small Business is filled with examples of his strategies put into play by small businesses. In most (though not all) cases, the practitioners have probably emulated our hero unwittingly, but they've been rewarded for their movements all the same. Some of these businesses have missed the mark later in their evolution, and others may fall from grace, either temporarily or permanently, in the future. But don't mistake future pitfalls with performance that's worth learning from and perhaps emulating.
The Art of War for Small Business is for current and aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business practitioners who are battling Goliaths, and who one day seek to become powerhouses in their respective industries. It's also for those who study Sun Tzu and are looking for a new adaptation uniquely for smaller forces. This book is a comprehensive study of Sun Tzu's masterpiece, targeted to applications for small armies and illustrated with success stories. The Art of War is very much the playbook that smaller forces can use for domination. This book is your guide to its application.
Sun Tzu in Jujitsu
I took my very first martial arts lesson in 1990. I was fifteen, and it was a defining moment. Most people take a lesson in karate, tae kwon do, jujitsu, or another martial art and, if they like it, declare that they want to get a black belt. Not me. It was during that very first Tang Soo Do class at the now-defunct Rising Sun Karate Club that I knew I wanted to do martial arts. I wanted to study and to train and teach. I knew the very first night that I would one day have my own school. More than twenty years and several black belts later, I'm pleased to say that dreams come true and that passion can continue to burn. I teach at a small dojo (training hall) in my home to a select group of students. But the story hasn't gone as planned.
In those early days, I was fortunate to find an excellent karate school, run by two wonderful instructors, John Weaver and Jack Lynch, both of whom have long since retired from teaching. They started me out on my pursuit of martial arts. I was extremely committed to karate and took that training very, very seriously. I was young and limber, and got pretty good at performing the kicks and punches. I also got quite good at kata, a prescribed sequence of movements that gets practiced routinely. But where I fell short, time and time again, was in sparring. I wasn't afraid to fight, and I wasn't afraid to get knocked around. But the bottom line was that when I went toe-to-toe with bigger, stronger opponents, they almost always beat me. They punched harder. They kicked harder. I couldn't outmuscle them. I couldn't outwrestle them. My technical proficiency was no match for their greater strength and size. Despite how hard I worked and trained, the tools I had to use weren't bringing me any closer to reaching my goal of self-defense domination. After Rising Sun Karate Club closed its doors, I trained at a couple of other karate schools in and around rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I lived.
When I went away to college in Philadelphia, I met Sensei Randy Hutchins. He taught jujitsu--more specifically Sho Bushido Ryu Jujitsu, an aiki-jujitsu that emphasizes concepts such as unbalancing the attacker and using his energy against him. Whereas the karate I studied was linear, jujitsu is circular. Whereas karate is defined by throwing a series of attacks, jujitsu is fluid, with a beginning and an end, but no real steps in the middle. Each technique is one movement.
The karate I studied was based on force against force. The attacker comes in with a powerful blow and you block it, and you deliver your own blow. For me, when the adversary was much stronger, I was on the losing end more often than was acceptable. This was the case no matter how much I trained. I tried for years to make the force-on-force model work for me and fell short. It's very discouraging to pour yourself into something and not see results comparable with the hard work and commitment you contribute. But my jujitsu experience was far different. It isn't based on force vs. force. Instead, you blend with your attacker, break his balance, disorient him, and render him compliant. And if you're good, it looks and feels effortless. I've found this type of martial arts to be much better suited for me to prepare for extremely challenging self-defense scenarios and dealing with stronger, bigger adversaries. But it was difficult. The aspects of karate in which I excelled came easily for me. Leaving those principles to adopt new ones that were diametrically opposed to what I knew was intimidating and uncomfortable. But it has made all the difference.
My martial arts journey has required some serious and unanticipated course changes that called me to question what I knew and understood. How does my experience relate to your small business? In the same way, you may need to make some changes that are painful and abandon some practices to which you've grown very attached. Practices you probably take for granted as truth. They need to be exchanged for a spirit of flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to branch out--in some cases quite radically--so that innovation can flourish. You need a clear sense of your strategic objectives and an insightful picture of your organization and competitors, which requires an honest assessment of your battlefield. Let Sun Tzu illuminate that path.