Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


This month, and largely because I am on holiday at the moment and haven’t looked at an English paper or seen a television – and as the Internet is currently not working (which makes posting this article on time an interesting task) – I thought it would be useful to look at elements of business strategy that will help you work out how to focus your mind on how to make money.
That sounds rather capitalistic but the reality is that none of us is in this business thing for the love of each other. So how do we use our resources to the fullest?
Take a tip from a Chinese general
There is a great book – very short, and a bit of business mantra from the eighties – called The Art of War and this is my recommended read for a first run at business psychology. It is small and short (which always helps in business books). It is not written about someone in particular and is, in fact, written about a Chinese general’s strategy on how to beat opponents in the art of war. Yes it does require some lateral thinking to get your business to fit into his strategies, but it’s worth a read – and it will only take you two flights (to Amsterdam and back) to get some benefit from it.
This brings me to today’s subject and I will describe it with an analogy.
Stay in balance
Recently two companies (A and B) were awarded a contract with a large manufacturer. The contract was split between the two of them. It so happened that the person managing the contract (for ease, let’s say it was a man) was thinking of leaving the business to look for new opportunities. He ended up working with company A in a completely different business – but was contracted back to the job he was originally tasked to do: to manage the contract for both companies.
Now most people would say “good move” by company A. It employed the manager and that’s the end of the story. But that’s missing the point. Remember: the contract works on an equitable basis; there can be no bias.
So, taking our learned friend above, we as company B should use this situation to our advantage to make sure that we get full equitable value. This means keeping even closer to the manager of the contract because, if it comes to a judgement call, he will tend to veer towards over-compensating company B – so as not to be seen to be biased. Makes sense so far.
Remember the long game
But this is not what company B did. Company B got on its high horse and cried foul thinking it had been subjected to an injustice. It tried to escalate the problem up the manufacturer’s line of command, without realising that, first, it was alienating itself and making no friends and, secondly, the issue would rise up to the person who made the original decision – and that he would have made it after a lot of thought because he had complete faith in the manager’s impartiality. Furthermore, the senior manager is very unlikely to reverse his decision.
Conclusion? Company B should have looked at the long game and not over-reacted at a short one. It may end up prejudicing it in the long run. All makes perfect sense.
Let’s try another one.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
This one is a tennis analogy that fits very well into business: more of the same. When you are winning a tennis match, which is the same as doing well in business, you need to analyse why you are doing well. Rarely does it come down to luck. More probably it is because you have found a formula that works.
If you find out that your opponent’s backhand is weak, you play on this weakness and set up a winning position. This is often the real business analogy. But what can happen is that, once a player has set up the winning advantage, he forgets how he got there. Instead of playing on his opponent’s backhand and grinding out a win, he tries to serve and volley. Why? Because he is winning he feels invincible and, lo and behold, his opponent turns out to be very good at hitting passing shots. Winning position becomes losing position. And in the mle that occurs, he can’t remember how he was originally winning. Result? A loss.
And so it is with business. Once you have found a winning formula don’t change it. Just try to replicate the model over and over again and you should be able to get to where you want to be and more. Yes, it isn’t sexy. And yes, it sometimes seems very boring. But winning is why we are all in this game.
Everyone does best what they do best
Last but not least, soldiers always need a battle. Soldiers always fight better when doing what they are trained to do. The general has to make the strategic decisions, the foot soldiers need to fight. Yes, they need to be in the best place at the best time, have the best tools and the most information, but most of all they need to fight. So make sure your workers are always engaged, know the cause and know what they are working for. Then wind them up and let them get on with it as that is what they do best.
As a general, you befriend the enemy, you play the tactical games – and you keep your forces on a very clear focus. However strange that focus is, they will follow you because, they need the confidence that you will make the right decisions, most of the time.
So, when you are in Amsterdam at the bar in the Rai or elsewhere, and in come your enemies, try to keep them a bit closer than before and see if using this knowledge can help improve your performance. Because if you improve, your work will as well.
If you missed previous articles in this series, or if you would like to contribute to our blog, look at www.azule.co.uk. If you would like to know more about how to keep going in a downturn contact peter.savage@azule.co.uk.

Tags: winning business | business | azule | iss033 | finance | amsterdam | ibc | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

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