We continue describing the various battlefields that Sun Tzu described in The Art of War and comparing them to business battlefields:
5. On ground of intersecting highways, when companies merge they can become better competitors, Amazon bought Zappos in order to keep them from being bought by another company and in turn strengthened their own company.
6. On serious ground, in other words in the heart of enemy territory. This is when the war may be won or lost. Gola, the UK based shoe company is on its last legs and facing stiff competition from Nike, Adidas, and others. This is a crucial moment for Gola, and although they’ve been around since 1905 they may not last much longer.
7. On difficult ground, you are not safe here, don’t stop to rest, unite with your allies if you can. However while some alliances are successful (i.e. Disney-Pixar) others are not. The New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads merged in 1968 to combat competition from airlines and the general change in consumer travel, but due to different company cultures and a long standing rivalry they ended up declaring bankruptcy two years later.
8. Hemmed-in ground, deceiving your enemy to lure them in, if you are weak play that you are strong, and if you are strong trick the enemy into thinking you are weak. The author gives the example of a friend of hers who is busy creating a hybrid tree business combining the genes from tropical trees with beautiful flowers with those of their more resilient cousins so that tropical trees can thrive in a more difficult environment and provide beautiful landscaping. However, because it takes so long for these trees to mature he is putting on the front that he is just an enthusiast so that his competition doesn’t know that he one day is hoping to put them out of business when they time is right.
9. Desperate ground, when escape is not possible and you must fight. Sears Department stores are currently in this position, yearly losing revenue and customers. If they don’t fight they will be put out to pasture.
I highly recommend this book and think that you’ll agree with me that it provides valuable insights into the world of competitive business.
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