Tips from SCORE #8 – Sun Tzu
What can we learn from others
The Art of War, written in the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu was a treatise on war, but his wise teachings are directly translated to owning and managing a business. His tips were based on strategy not weapons. Business is a game of strategic thinking. Peter Johnson, a California based strategic marketer professed that if you think and act strategically you can eclipse even the largest competitor. Sun Tzu advised:
Make a Plan – “the general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle begins”. Make a plan. Don’t wing it and plan as you go. Apply the concepts of Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas to plan your launch or expansion. Sit down and think through what is your Value Proposition or what need are you fulfilling? For whom are you fulfilling the need or who is your Target Customer? And, how will you communicate with them? Make a budget that is the financial interpretation of your plan. In terms of cash what will it take to launch and operate or expand your business? Successful small businesses are built upon the foundation of a sound plan.
Assess your competitive landscape – “if you know your enemy and your know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”. Spend the time before investing your hard-earned money or those of friends and family understanding the competitive environment you will be entering. Know your potential customers and why they use your competitors. Who are your competitors? What are their competitive advantages compared to yours? Do on-the-ground research and validate there is adequate market for you to engage enough customers to create or expand your profitable enterprise.
Plan first, then act – “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move”.
Perform exceptional service – “supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy with no fighting”. Before you open your doors, launch your online business or expand your already profitable business determine how you will “delight” your customers. Customers who are just satisfied are as likely to leave you for a competitor as one that is not, however those that are delighted become fanatic, loyal followers and will recommend you to others. Determine what your customers want and then exceed every expectation.
Build your customer base through referrals – “opportunities multiply as they are seized”. Outstanding customer service will generate referrals. You cannot depend on all outreach marketing to grow your business. You have to have clients telling others they need you too. The momentum you achieve from gaining referrals can be sustained over a long period of time. But, you have to ask for referrals. When you treat them like gold, they will multiply.
Grow only when the need requires it – “Great results can be achieved with small forces”.
Hire the best and treat them well – “regard your soldiers as your children and they will follow you into the deepest valleys – look upon them as own beloved sons [and daughters] and they will stand with you even unto death”. As your business grows you will need to hire talent to support your mission. Focus on becoming a leader of a team. Care about them and they will care about your business.
Lead by example – “A leader leads by example, not by force”.
We learn from others that do it well. As a small business owner being a life-long learner is a fundamental key to success.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor, SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands. www.capecod.score.org, 508/775-4884, [email protected]