Self Help

The Art of War for Small Business - BECKY SHEETZ-RUNKLE

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 28 min read
  • The book imagines Sun Tzu as a modern business leader and applies his principles from The Art of War to business strategy for small companies.

  • Small businesses must be smarter and more agile than bigger competitors to succeed. Directly competing against them will lead to failure.

  • Sun Tzu provides profound insights that can help small businesses defeat bigger competitors and dominate their markets if applied well.

  • The book contains many examples of small businesses succeeding through (often unknowing) application of Sun Tzu’s principles.

  • It is a comprehensive study of The Art of War targeted for small businesses, with examples and success stories.

  • The author’s experience in martial arts serves as an analogy - she was initially trained in force-on-force karate but later learned aiki-jujitsu that uses the opponent’s energy against them. This mirrors how small businesses must strategize differently than larger competitors to win.

  • The book aims to guide small business leaders to effectively apply Sun Tzu’s timeless principles as their playbook for success.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding Sun Tzu, The Art of War, and its relevance for small businesses:

  • Sun Tzu was a military strategist who lived in ancient China from 544-496 BC during a time of war between rival states. He wrote The Art of War, the classic treatise on military strategy and tactics.

  • The Art of War is a short but dense book full of strategic wisdom that has been influential for over 2,000 years, studied by military leaders, politicians, and business executives. It was brought to prominence in the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

  • While often applied to business strategy, The Art of War is uniquely suited for small businesses seeking to compete and thrive against larger rivals with more resources.

  • As a lifelong martial artist, entrepreneur, and marketing consultant, the author sees The Art of War through a lens of enabling smaller forces to defeat stronger adversaries by using smart strategy. This reflects Sun Tzu’s own wisdom.

  • Small businesses that try to compete simply by the rules of big business are destined to struggle. But by studying and applying Sun Tzu, small businesses can seize opportunities and create conditions favorable for success against the odds.

  • The timeless strategic principles in The Art of War can provide small businesses with a winning playbook to outmaneuver and outsmart bigger competitors if applied diligently.

  • Sun Tzu’s The Art of War was intended to teach weaker forces how to defeat stronger adversaries through superior strategy. This book applies Sun Tzu’s teachings to help small businesses compete against larger competitors.

  • Small businesses can’t win by competing head-on against big companies’ massive budgets. Instead they must use guerrilla tactics, build strategic alliances, outmaneuver and outperform bigger players, and seize every advantage.

  • Common small business advantages include agility, flexibility, innovation, niche focus, and willingness to take risks. Disadvantages include limited resources, lack of organizational structure, and constantly shifting priorities.

  • Big companies’ advantages include economies of scale and lower costs. Disadvantages include difficulty adapting, aversion to risk, and focus on core products/customers at the expense of new opportunities.

  • Many small businesses lack strategic focus, sacrificing long-term strategy for short-term tactics. Sun Tzu’s principles can provide the needed strategic framework.

  • While some of Sun Tzu’s literal military tactics don’t apply today, his core principles of superior strategy and exploiting advantages still offer relevant guidance for small business “warfare” against bigger competitors.

Here are the key points in summarizing the introduction to How to Read the Art of War for Small Business:

  • The book explores 12 key themes from The Art of War that are relevant for small business leaders and entrepreneurs. The goal is to help build stronger, more successful businesses.

  • It relies largely on Lionel Giles’ popular English translation of The Art of War, but also compares other translations.

  • Many Sun Tzu quotes online are poorly attributed or don’t actually appear in The Art of War. Stick to reputable translations.

  • The 5 constant factors from The Art of War are: Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander, Method/Discipline. These provide a framework for the 12 themes.

  • Moral Law refers to unity of purpose to serve customers and employees. Heaven is timing/conditions. Earth is terrain/situations. The Commander is leadership virtues. Method/Discipline is organization.

  • Understanding yourself, your enemy, your market, and your assets is essential but challenging. Don’t make false assumptions.

  • Sun Tzu’s 5 essentials for victory require thorough understanding of your organization. They relate to: knowing when to fight, handling forces, animating all ranks, preparing while enemy is unprepared, and having capable leadership.

Here are a few key points on applying Sun Tzu’s wisdom to modern business:

  • Know your organization’s strengths and weaknesses thoroughly. This allows you to play to your strengths while shoring up weaknesses. Cross-train employees to build adaptability.

  • Validate ideas with market data, not just intuition. Don’t cling to flawed concepts - be ready to pivot.

  • Have a clear, focused business plan that articulates your differentiation. Vague plans lead to problems.

  • Understand your market and competitors deeply. Don’t assume you have no competition.

  • Evaluate whether your revenue/profit model is truly sustainable. Ensure pricing aligns with market realities.

  • Manage employees wisely - organize clear roles/hierarchy, match people to suitable positions, hire doers over deliberators. Keeping the wrong people hurts small businesses disproportionately.

  • Move swiftly and decisively on opportunities. Excess deliberation leads to missed chances.

  • Master the basics of business first before expanding offerings. Trying to be all things to all people brings complexity that kills sales.

The key is to leverage Sun Tzu’s timeless wisdom on strategy, adaptation, and leadership to build an agile, focused organization with strong talent and a clear mission. Mastering business fundamentals is vital.

Here are the key points in summarizing the passage:

  • Building strong, loyal teams is critical for business success. Zappos offers new hires money to quit to weed out uncommitted employees.

  • Leaders must show care and concern for their people, as it leads to victory. Overburdening or neglecting employees is counterproductive.

  • Incentivize top performers. Five Guys gives cash bonuses for high scores on restaurant audits.

  • Enforce discipline consistently once employees are attached to you. Communicate expectations clearly.

  • Consistency across the organization is essential, like at Five Guys which became successful by focusing on what they do well.

In summary, the passage highlights the importance of building motivated teams, caring for employees appropriately, rewarding top talent, enforcing consistent discipline, and staying focused on core strengths for small business success. Mastering these leadership principles from Sun Tzu allows small companies to maximize their people and outperform competitors.

  • Sun Tzu emphasized knowing your enemy as well as yourself. This knowledge is essential for victory.

  • You must understand your adversary’s vulnerabilities and strengths in order to identify opportunities to defeat them. Readiness for battle is only half the equation.

  • Identify all potential competitors, even ones you may not know about yet. Don’t assume you have no competition.

  • Create opportunities to defeat competitors by feinting and using combinations, like in martial arts sparring. Wait for them to make a mistake and capitalize on it quickly.

  • Look for openings created by external factors as well. Understand your enemy’s circumstances and how you can use them to your advantage.

  • Learn everything you can about competitors through research, tracking, and other intelligence gathering. Know their strategies, tactics, strengths, weaknesses.

  • Be adaptable and ready to change course as new information comes in. Continuously update your understanding of the competition.

  • Leverage what you learn about enemies to exploit weaknesses, block strengths, and create better strategies. The goal is defeating the enemy, not just knowing them.

  • The story illustrates how Uche was distracted by the instructor during a knife fight training exercise, allowing the narrator to quickly disarm him. This shows the importance of exploiting moments when the enemy is unprepared, as Sun Tzu advises.

  • Sun Tzu says to attack where the enemy is unprepared and appear where they don’t expect you. Take advantage of their lack of precautions.

  • Netflix disrupted Blockbuster by satisfying customer demand for entertainment and convenience in an innovative way. This is an example of finding and exploiting an opening against an established competitor.

  • Sun Tzu recommends exploiting an enemy’s weaknesses like their temperament. Pretend to be weak so they become arrogant and careless.

  • Attack weaknesses, avoid strengths. Compare your resources to find where you have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Carefully observe competitors to identify signs of their deficiencies like low morale or lack of resources.

  • Time attacks for when the enemy must rush to defend vulnerable spots. Small businesses can use speed and agility to strike suddenly.

  • Avoid falling into competitors’ traps and diversions. Understand their intentions so you aren’t misled.

  • Evade enemy strengths, exploit their vulnerabilities, then attack decisively.

  • m is the Turkish word for shepherd.

  • Chobani yogurt sponsored the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics with effective TV ads that connected to its roots as a company helping rural dairy farmers and communities.

  • The 2012 ad showed a rural town building a theater to watch the Olympics, highlighting Chobani’s role in revitalizing small towns. It portrayed Chobani as the underdog, forging a connection with audiences.

  • The ad strategy made Chobani’s small size an advantage and helped build an emotional bond with viewers nationwide.

  • The summary emphasizes how Chobani used marketing to play up its role in helping rural communities, emphasizing its humble origins and roots even as it grew into a major brand. This built goodwill and connection with audiences.

  • Armies that penetrate deeply into hostile territory are on “serious ground” which requires commitment of resources. Chobani successfully entered the yogurt market with a new, high-quality product.

  • “Difficult ground” like developing countries poses challenges but rewards persistence. Entrepreneurs in these regions must “keep steadily on the march” like those in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

  • “Hemmed-in ground” allows smaller forces to defeat larger ones. Blockbuster was hemmed in by its traditional model and defeated by Netflix’s superior delivery.

  • On “desperate ground” you must fight to survive. Priceline turned despair into advantage.

  • Avoid a prepared competitor’s stronghold - go after unprepared markets like Paychex did in the small business payroll sector neglected by ADP.

  • Know when to “pivot” and change strategy like Airwalk initially did so well in capturing youth culture but later lost focus.

  • In the Internet age, customer experience spreads rapidly. Companies must tend relationships carefully on this “connected ground.”

The key is to thoroughly understand your terrain and forces at play, including customers, to adapt strategy and tactics to the ground you occupy.

  • Small businesses should focus on building intimate relationships with customers by knowing them extremely well, getting closer to them than competitors, and emotionally connecting better than anyone else.

  • Strategic alliances are critical for small businesses to gain advantages and collaborate. Carefully vet potential partners and have clear objectives.

  • Local partners can provide guidance when entering new markets. Avoid using the same local partners as competitors.

  • The bourbon industry provides an example of competitors banding together and promoting a region, lifting up the entire industry. Bourbon faced declines but was revived through innovation and community.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Alliances and partnerships can be very beneficial for small businesses. Sharing resources, bartering, and networking can provide access to things a small business may not be able to afford on its own.

  • Be kind and take care of people who help you along the way, even competitors or suppliers you take over. Burning bridges hurts in the long run.

  • Suppliers and distributors have valuable insights and information. Build strong relationships with them through trust and humility. Work creatively with them on things like cash flow.

  • Successful examples of alliances include:

  • Carnival Cruise Lines bartering empty cabins for advertising.

  • eBay’s Meg Whitman building partnerships and teams.

  • Dennis Publishing’s founder persuading various people to help with no/little money.

  • Atari working with suppliers on creative payment terms.

The key is to build mutually beneficial partnerships creatively, treat people well, and leverage networks and relationships fully. Doing this can help small businesses punch above their weight.

Here are the key points from the summary:

  • Maximize resources - Wise leaders make the most of limited resources to defeat larger competitors without fighting. Fully leverage current customers rather than focusing only on acquiring new ones.

  • Provide the right resources - Give your team what they need to succeed, even if not fancy or elaborate. Listen to their needs.

  • Devise unfathomable plans - Build up your resources so you can execute plans your competition won’t grasp.

  • Leverage experience - Wisdom comes from experience. Work with experts if you lack experience.

  • Overcome anger - Don’t make decisions based on emotion. Anger can have disastrous effects.

  • Perfect patience - Wait for the right time to make your move. Don’t rush.

  • Be consistent - Keep your word. Inconsistency raises doubts.

  • Unite them around a cause - Rally your forces around a shared mission. Ensure they believe in it.

  • Have courage - Brave danger with your troops. Don’t ask more of them than you do yourself.

  • Reward ability - Promote based on merit, not favoritism. Morale suffers when promotions are unfair.

  • Demand discipline - Punish lack of discipline harshly but not out of anger. Discipline prevents disobedience.

The key is embodying virtues like wisdom, sincerity, courage, benevolence, and discipline as a leader. Internalize Sun Tzu’s principles.

Here are the key points on perseverance from the passage:

  • Perseverance is critical for entrepreneurs and small business leaders to succeed. They must endure challenges and overcome defeats.

  • Sun Tzu emphasizes turning disadvantage into advantage and missing no opportunity to defeat the enemy. When difficulties arise, small businesses must take action and follow his principles.

  • Perseverance has long been a watchword for entrepreneurs. Successful small business leaders must have stick-to-itiveness.

  • Entrepreneurs and small business leaders face problems and must be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to persevere through them.

  • Sun Tzu says even the most disadvantaged army can succeed with the right spirit of perseverance. Small businesses with fewer resources can’t wait out challenges, they must act.

  • Leaders must be ready to stare down and overcome defeat. Perseverance is a key differentiator between successful small businesses and others.

The main points are that perseverance, in the form of enduring challenges, overcoming defeat, turning disadvantage to advantage, and taking action, is critical advice from Sun Tzu for small business leaders to succeed when faced with difficulties.

  • Leaders of small businesses must have the courage and tenacity to endure adversity. Be ready to seize any advantage from difficulties.

  • Maintain a positive outlook even amidst challenges. Inspire your team that success can still be achieved.

  • Know when to fight competitors and when to avoid battles. Only engage when there is a clear advantage to be gained.

  • Like Sun Tzu advises, don’t fight unless the position is critical. Be prepared to divert competitive attacks.

  • Adversity can sharpen your focus and skills. Failures are learning opportunities. Entrepreneurs like James Dyson succeeded after many setbacks through perseverance.

The main message is that small business leaders must meet difficulties head-on with a positive mindset, selectivity in competitive battles, and the readiness to turn disadvantages into advantages. Courage, tenacity and learning from failures are key.

  • Small businesses need focused, disciplined precision to achieve big results, just as Sun Tzu advised for armies. Penetrating deeply with focus brings cohesion; going only a short way leads to dispersion.

  • Knowing the time and place of battle allows concentration of forces from a distance for victory. Enemies who prepare defenses everywhere end up weak everywhere.

  • One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is winning victories but failing to fully exploit or consolidate those achievements, like wasting trade show leads or churning through sales reps.

  • Scattering and regrouping forces, as advised by Sun Tzu, allows small businesses to extend knowledge throughout the organization rather than getting trapped in silos.

  • Regular communication and collaboration across departments and levels is key. Leaders should actively break down walls and barriers between different parts of the organization.

  • With focus and by leveraging victories, small businesses can achieve the long game of market dominance. But they must act decisively on opportunities and consolidate resources and gains.

  • Focusing solely on the customer relationship can create information silos within a business. One defense contractor broke down these silos by regularly bringing together employees to share innovations, lessons learned, and best practices that could benefit other projects and customers.

  • According to Sun Tzu, a skilled fighter wins with ease by making no mistakes, which comes from certainty of victory through defeating an already weakened enemy. Businesses can detect competitors’ weaknesses through patience and observation.

  • Keep competitors insecure and on the move by compelling them to constantly prepare against your possible actions. Use legal means if necessary to protect intellectual property.

  • Focus on products and services with proven market viability, not just what seems innovative. Be willing to discontinue offerings that don’t gain traction.

  • Wegmans grocery chain has grown steadily by expanding carefully only where it is prepared to go. Five Guys burgers sticks to its core menu to maintain quality.

  • The key is to focus on your strengths and what will achieve your objectives, not get distracted by ancillary activities. Unity requires team members to share focus and purpose.

Here is a summary of the key points about unity from the passage:

  • Unity is critical for small forces to overcome larger adversaries, as Sun Tzu emphasizes. A unified small force can divide and conquer a larger disjointed one.

  • Leaders must inspire unity of purpose in their troops. This requires clear direction and passionate commitment to a cause. Unity must be maintained even in long campaigns to avoid restlessness.

  • Allowing dissention creates opportunities for enemies. Leaders must instill loyalty to avoid this.

  • There are consequences for losing. Troops must understand the dire results of failure to be motivated.

  • Signals like gongs and flags can focus troops’ attention and unite them behind commands.

  • United troops are emboldened to advance and won’t retreat alone. Mediocrity is for large disorganized forces.

  • Captured enemies should be treated kindly to potentially unite them.

  • Unity must be maintained across all battlefield conditions and terrain.

  • Divisiveness is the enemy of unity and must be reduced. United small forces can overcome larger divided ones.

  • Maneuvering is critical for gaining and maintaining the advantageous position according to Sun Tzu. Keep competitors moving and divide them.

  • Fight without fighting directly when possible by attacking strategy and alliances rather than head-on engagement. Capture competitors’ cities without laying siege by moving quietly, acquiring competitors, hiring their talent, securing their suppliers, taking their customers, finding better ways to market and distribute, etc.

  • Avoid direct confrontation with strength. Instead, strike at weaknesses. Paychex went after small businesses that ADP ignored. Netflix attacked Blockbuster’s inability to adapt rather than compete in rental stores. Samuel Adams competes with craft beers, not the mega brewers.

  • Maintain flexibility. Be able to quickly shift plans. Have multiple strategies prepared.

  • Feint, change tactics, and shift position to confuse competitors. Appear where unexpected. Leverage speed and knowledge of terrain.

  • Maneuver competitors into weakness. Entice them to spread into infertile ground. Shape conditions to your advantage.

  • Salesforce united a user community with its mission of changing software delivery, avoiding direct combat. Wegmans gives back to its community, a competitive advantage competitors can’t replicate.

The key is to outmaneuver competitors through speed, flexibility, knowledge, and preparation rather than brute force. Attack where they are weakest, not strongest.

Here are a few key points on maneuvering against the competition:

  • Probe the adversary to reveal weaknesses. Use feints and tests to gauge their reactions and identify vulnerabilities.

  • Turn problems into opportunities. Be creative in finding ways to gain an advantage, even from setbacks.

  • Capture what the competitor cares about, like customers, talent, or capabilities. Acquire the assets your rival values to weaken them.

  • Move with speed and agility. As a small business, leverage the ability to act swiftly against slower opponents.

  • Choose the right timing. Don’t just be ready, ensure the market is receptive before making a move.

  • Aim to put yourself in an undefeatable position before engaging, securing provisions and high ground.

  • Occupy the best positions before competitors do. Control key terrain and resources.

  • Maintain strong relationships with partners and suppliers. Don’t burn bridges that may later starve you of support.

  • Be proactive in your strategy. Don’t just defend, but make bold maneuvers to gain advantages.

The key is to outmaneuver the competition through speed, creativity, foresight, and preparation. Master the art of crafty strategy.

  • When in an unfavorable position, avoid desperate defense. Attack instead with your full strength. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength.

  • When an army is on the move, pass quickly over difficult terrain like mountains and keep to valleys. After crossing a river, get far away from it so you don’t get pushed back.

  • Don’t linger on unwelcome ground. Make decisions quickly when in a compromised position.

  • Vary your plans and tactics according to circumstances. Be flexible like water, adapting and changing shape rather than sticking rigidly to a course.

  • Continually devise new tactics to stay ahead of competitors. Do not repeat what worked before. There are infinite variety of circumstances requiring fresh approaches.

  • Innovation is critical for small businesses to remain viable. Adapt in response to market trends and opportunities rather than fighting against change.

  • Many successful businesses took a very different course than initially conceived. Their ability to adapt and respond to opportunities was key.

The main themes are flexibility, innovation, and avoiding desperate defensive tactics when in an unfavorable position. Businesses must adapt strategies and tactics creatively based on circumstances rather than rigidly clinging to what worked previously.

  • Sun Tzu advises not revealing more of your plans and methods than is necessary, as this allows competitors to anticipate and counter you. Keeping some elements hidden preserves the element of surprise.

  • Continuous small improvements in all aspects of your business contribute to having a variety of tactics, making it hard for competitors to predict your next moves.

  • “Disruptive innovation” involves targeting less profitable segments that industry leaders overlook, then improving the offering until it displaces established players. Small businesses can capitalize on these opportunities.

  • Stealth and nimbleness are advantages for smaller players. Large organizations have more trouble responding quickly.

  • PayPal and Priceline adapted their business models multiple times until finding approaches that worked. Being willing to shift course opened up new opportunities for them.

  • Leaders need the foresight to modify or change course when needed to stay competitive. Adaptability is key.

Here are the key points on exploiting morale and opportunities against an adversary:

  • Study your competitor to understand when their morale is high or low. Attack when it is low, avoid them when it is high.

  • Damage not just your competitor’s morale, but also that of their allies and partners. Disrupt their relationships.

  • Be ready to exploit any openings your competitor leaves. If they make a mistake or show weakness, be prepared to swiftly take advantage.

  • Only fight battles where victory is nearly assured. Avoid miscalculations and situations where defeat is possible.

  • Make your forces and strategy irresistible to the competitor. Overwhelm them so they see no option but to surrender.

  • Conquer enemies that are already defeated. Recognize when a competitor is weakened and be decisive in delivering the final blow.

  • Keep your own morale high by achieving objectives quickly and giving your people the resources they need. Dragging out conflicts wears down morale.

The key is meticulous preparation, seizing opportunities when they arise, and maintaining an indomitable spirit across your organization. With strong leadership and coordination, you can break competitors’ will to resist.

Here are a few key points on deception from Chapter 14 of The Art of War for Small Business:

  • Control and shape how your business is perceived by competitors. Keep plans hidden and appear unable when able to attack.

  • Create chaos and confusion to lure competitors in. But use ethical means as dishonesty is not recommended.

  • Allow competitors’ misperceptions about your business to work in your favor.

  • Leverage deception and misinformation ethically to wage business warfare. Don’t be outright dishonest.

  • Fly under the radar until it’s time for a well-timed assault on competitors. Or appear bigger than you are to intimidate.

  • Combining hiding and puffing yourself up can be effective for small businesses against big competitors.

  • Historical examples like Marsha Serlin of United Scrap and Carnival Cruise Lines illustrate how small businesses can shape perception and fly under the radar.

  • The key is using deception ethically as a strategy, not being outright dishonest. Sun Tzu advocates cunning and artful ways of leveraging misperception.

  • Appearing weak or confused can be an effective strategy, but only if you are actually disciplined and strong behind the scenes. Don’t let any appearance of weakness damage your business.

  • Keep your competition guessing and off balance by altering plans and taking circuitous routes. Don’t allow them to anticipate your next moves.

  • Protect your secrets and intellectual property. Use legal tools like NDAs and non-competes.

  • Divide the competition by keeping them uncertain where you will strike next. Be formless and adapt like water.

  • Choose allies selectively - don’t partner with everyone. Make sure allies are loyal and know it is in their interest to be aligned with you.

  • Use intelligence gathering to illuminate your movements. Foreknowledge is key. Employ spies/informants to gain critical knowledge about the competition.

The key is maintaining strength behind the facade and using intelligence and unpredictability to outmaneuver the competition. Deception requires great discipline and insight.

Here are the key points on Sun Tzu’s classifications of spies:

  • There are 5 types of spies:
  1. Local spies - use enemy’s own people
  2. Inward spies - make use of enemy officials
  3. Converted spies - turn enemy spies into your spies
  4. Doomed spies - allow them to spread false information
  5. Surviving spies - bring news from enemy camp
  • Treat spies well - converted spies especially should be treated with utmost care and rewarded generously. Information from converted spies allows you to recruit other types of spies.

  • Spying requires secrecy, generosity, benevolence and alertness to get truthful information. Keep informants close.

  • Seek out and convert enemy spies through bribes and comfort. They become useful for your service.

  • The ultimate goal of spying is knowledge about the enemy. This comes primarily from converted spies.

The summary covers Sun Tzu’s 5 classifications of spies, how to treat them, and the importance of converted spies in particular for gaining enemy intelligence. Let me know if you would like me to expand on any part of the summary.

Here are the key takeaways from The Art of War and how they can be applied to business:

  • Know your competition and know yourself - Conduct thorough market research and analysis on your competitors, but also take an honest look at your own strengths and weaknesses. Know where you stand relative to the competition.

  • Leverage alliances - Build partnerships and relationships with suppliers, distributors, customers, etc. to strengthen your position.

  • Control perceptions - Manage your brand image and how you are perceived in the marketplace. Use marketing and PR effectively.

  • Always seek growth - Don’t become complacent. Continuously look for new opportunities, innovations and areas for expansion.

  • Play the long game - Don’t sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains. Make strategic decisions aligned with your vision.

  • Turn disadvantage to advantage - When faced with challenges, look for the opportunities within them and how you can turn the situation to your benefit.

  • Prepare to win first - Enter any endeavor with the mindset to win from the start. Have a competitive spirit.

  • Act decisively - Once you’ve gathered information and developed a strategy, execute it with confidence and commitment. Don’t delay or second-guess.

  • Out-strategize the many - Use superior strategy and execution to outperform larger competitors. Leverage speed, flexibility and smarts.

  • Fight only when necessary - Consider if confrontation is needed or if an indirect approach may be more effective. Conserve resources.

  • Time attacks carefully - Strike when conditions are optimal and your chances of winning are greatest.

  • Surprise competitors - Keep competitors guessing through unpredictability, secrecy and unconventional moves.

  • Go where competitors aren’t - Find “blue ocean” opportunities in spaces overlooked or ignored by competitors.

Here is a summary of the key points and identification of unsatisfied needs from the passage:


  • Attack competitors’ weak spots relentlessly. Big organizations are unprepared for guerilla attacks.

  • Present a unified, consistent image and brand experience to get ahead. Maintain unity.

  • Take advantage of every opportunity to defeat competitors and dominate the market.

  • Identify and follow industry trends. Adapt plans accordingly.

  • Flawless execution is essential for strategy success. No days off.

  • Outmaneuver competitors so they take the longer route while you get there faster.

  • Make the most of limited resources. Don’t just acquire new customers, maximize current ones.

  • Leverage the internet, social media, and global workforce to level the playing field.

Unsatisfied Needs:

  • Big competitors are not prepared to quickly counter guerilla attacks on weaknesses.

  • Many businesses don’t present a consistent, unified brand experience.

  • Companies miss opportunities to defeat competitors and dominate the market.

  • Businesses struggle to adapt to industry trends quickly.

  • Execution of strategies is often flawed and inconsistent.

  • Companies take circuitous routes while competitors take shortcuts.

  • Resources are often wasted instead of maximized.

  • The internet, social media, and global workforce are underutilized.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  1. Gladwell discusses the “tipping point”, the moment when an idea or trend crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire.

  2. He analyzes how Hush Puppies shoes became popular again in the mid-1990s after being outdated for years. A few New York hipsters wearing the shoes triggered a word-of-mouth epidemic.

  3. Gladwell explains three key factors behind tipping points: the Law of the Few (connectors, mavens, salesmen play key roles), the Stickiness Factor (memorable messages spread more effectively), and the Power of Context (the environment impacts the tipping point moment).

  4. He examines how Paul Revere was able to effectively spread the message about the British, while William Dawes failed to do so, illustrating the Law of the Few.

  5. Gladwell also analyzes how Sesame Street used stickiness and the power of context to capture children’s attention and teach them effectively.

In summary, Gladwell examines how ideas and trends spread like viruses, dependent on key influencers, memorable messaging, and a conducive environment. He provides examples like Hush Puppies, Paul Revere and Sesame Street to illustrate his theory.

Here is a summary of the key points from the passages:

  • The Art of War emphasizes the importance of deception in warfare. Deception can take many forms, such as feigning chaos when one is actually orderly, hiding one’s true intentions, and attacking the enemy’s strategy.

  • Successful entrepreneurs like Marc Benioff of and Jerry Murrell of Five Guys Burgers and Fries use deception tactics in business. They pretend to be weak or make competitors underestimate them in order to gain an advantage.

  • Other examples of business deception include Manoj Bhargava of 5-Hour Energy obscuring his involvement in the company, and entrepreneurs spying on competitors’ pricing strategies.

  • Deception allows small businesses to outmaneuver larger competitors. Key Sun Tzu principles for small business include concentrating resources against weaknesses, avoiding direct clashes with stronger opponents, and being flexible and unpredictable.

  • Overall, Sun Tzu and modern entrepreneurs emphasize using deception wisely to conceal strengths, attack weaknesses, and keep opponents off balance. Deception gives small businesses advantages against larger competitors.

Here is a summary of the key points from the articles on billionaire Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya and the rise of Greek yogurt:

  • Hamdi Ulukaya founded Chobani in 2005 and launched Greek yogurt in the US in 2007. At the time, Greek yogurt was barely known in the US.

  • Ulukaya took a big risk expanding the company rapidly to meet the demand for Greek yogurt once it caught on. Chobani went from $3 million in sales in 2007 to $1.1 billion in 2012.

  • Chobani’s success has sparked a Greek yogurt boom. It has about 50% market share in the Greek yogurt category, which accounts for over a quarter of yogurt sales.

  • Ulukaya has become a billionaire from Chobani’s growth. He owns the majority of the company and has rejected buyout offers.

  • Chobani’s growth has impacted the wider yogurt industry. Companies like Yoplait and Dannon have lost market share and launched their own Greek yogurts.

  • Some attribute Chobani’s success to Greek yogurt’s high protein content and thick texture compared to regular yogurt. It also has no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.

  • Critics say the Greek yogurt boom will not last due to competition and consumer fatigue. But the category is still growing strongly.

  • Ulukaya’s vision for Greek yogurt’s potential and willingness to take risks and invest heavily drove Chobani’s rapid growth. His focus on natural ingredients and making organic yogurt accessible helped fuel demand.

Here are a few key points summarizing War as a metaphor for business:

  • War requires strategy, adaptability, and knowledge of the competitive landscape, just like business. Sun Tzu’s principles for military strategy can inform business strategy.

  • Business has competitive advantages and disadvantages, just like war. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of competitors, is critical.

  • Business leaders, like military leaders, must have skill and wisdom. Sun Tzu emphasized the importance of wise leadership.

  • Strategy matters but so does serendipity. Careful planning is important but businesses must also be ready to capitalize on unexpected opportunities.

  • Small business leaders can benefit from studying Sun Tzu just as military leaders have. Concepts like knowing yourself and your competitors, avoiding direct attacks on strength, and using spies/intelligence are relevant.

  • Examples like Smashburger and Spence Diamonds show how business leaders have successfully applied Sun Tzu’s principles.

  • Social media and other factors have increased the speed of business, just as new technologies changed warfare. Speed and adaptation are even more vital.

  • Mindsets from the martial arts like discipline, focus, and continuous improvement can help businesses compete and succeed, on “the battlefield” of the marketplace.

  1. Reputation - Your work and track record are the core foundation. Relying solely on this makes attracting new leads/prospects difficult.

  2. Amplification - Using social media, PR, blogging, SEO etc. to broadcast your expertise more widely. This spreads your ideas and reaches more people.

  3. Leverage - Capitalizing on assets like articles, blogs, videos to reach out to high-probability prospects. Putting the right “bait” in the right places to attract potential customers.

  4. Gravity - Building momentum over time through leads, opportunities, speaking engagements etc. This credibility attracts bigger clients and projects, leading to more referrals and business.

  5. You can’t expect to make sales to strangers without first establishing trust and authority through content and outreach. Marketing is a marathon requiring step-by-step relationship building, not a quick sale to strangers.

  6. Determine the “who” and “why” first when marketing. Connect authentically for a specific purpose relevant to them. The right “what” will flow naturally from that.

  • American Management Association (AMA) offers a variety of professional development and training solutions for executives, business owners, trainers, consultants, and journalists.

  • AMA provides seminars in over 40 cities nationwide that allow for hands-on training and interaction with expert faculty.

  • AMA also offers live online seminars with high-quality content and instructors without the need for travel.

  • Additionally, AMA OnDemand provides online training with feedback and support from a coach.

  • For organizations, AMA Enterprise can help diagnose challenges and provide tailored solutions for talent transformation and excellence.

  • AMA has a range of free resources including webinars, podcasts, articles, and more to further knowledge.

  • The goal of AMA is to help professionals at every stage of their career build skills, improve performance, and overcome challenges.

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About Matheus Puppe