Brighton July 08 003

Those who regard their financial lives as a war will have the strategic advantage of sound planning and military perspective. Those who see their businesses as an option, a game, a hobby, or a service to society (altruism) are weak by definition. They may win battles, but they will lose the war.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher and the author of the Art of War, an extremely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy, and it’s still regarded as one of the most important books on the subject today. Sun Tzu lived c.500–320. B.C. He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then mens’ weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue… In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”

Smart strategists understand that they can lose battles yet still win the war. The know their enemies: bureaucrats, politicians, the tax man, their competition, and in some cases their own employees. They are aware of the power of unforeseen circumstances and they have to deal with the deception of the enemy. Good warriors know that their philosophy and beliefs drive them and prescribe their choices, therefore they are careful to surround themselves with men who share their values and philosophies.

Sun Tzu wrote, “Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards… Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.” Generals are flexible in their tactics and understand and know how to deal with priorities and friction.

The great American General, George S. Patton Jr., said, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!” Patton was an intellectual. He knew his enemy. If more Americans had read Obama’s books and studied the man’s values and objectives, they would never have elected him for their president, let alone a second term, since they would immediately have recognized him as their enemy. (Patton also wrote, “To be a successful soldier, you must know history.”)

Patton understood the purpose of war: winning. He wrote,”“Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!”

To me, the purpose of the war of business is to make the maximum amount of after tax profit as soon as possible, with the least cost, risk, and complications, and with the maximum enjoyment. It’s usually harder than we expect at first and it usually takes longer, and that’s why adequate preparation and the the right team and leadership is essential. And our biggest enemies are lack of focus, the loss of momentum, and ego.

Finally, Patton wrote, ““For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”

(Picture: Military store in Brighton, UK)

Robin Elliott