People and organizations with clear visions, values, and plans tend to accomplish far more and do it faster than their competitors. When everyone in your organization is united by a clear strategic vision of your desired future state, you create a powerful mental energy that will move you toward your goals and move your goals toward you.
The major reasons for success in business and in life are focus and concentration. The major reasons for failure are lack of direction and diffusion of effort.
Alexander the Great
The world has become an increasingly challenging place for businesspeople. Not only is it more difficult than ever to create a business, but there are more threats from competition, angry consumers, and government regulations. In the battleground we are facing in the new century, it’s helpful to look to history for insight.
Alexander the Great was an extraordinarily gifted strategic planner in his military conquests. Had he been alive today, he could have taught us much abut how to survive and thrive in turbulent economic times. More than two millennia ago at the Battle of Arbela in 221 B.C., he became the master of the known world by defeating Darius of Persia in a pitched battle where Alexander was outnumbered five to one. Alexander was able to accomplish this incredible feat because of his ability to focus his limited strength on the one strategic variable upon which hinged the power of the Persian army: Darius himself.
Whether or not you are a fan of military metaphor, the reality is that the economic situation today is putting many entrepreneurs and managers in survival mode, in constant combat to achieve profitability. You should become familiar with seven key military principles of strategy that are applicable to setting corporate strategy in an uncertain business world today:
Let’s look at these from the perspective of Alexander the Great.
The Principle of the Objective
Alexander had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish and why. He knew that he would have to achieve a decisive victory over the Persian army to bring all of the Persian empire under his control. He also knew that the Persian army was made up of contingents from all over the empire. The only factor that held them together was loyalty to Darius himself. If Alexander could kill or disable Darius, the rest of the army would break up and scatter.
The night before the battle, Alexander called his officers together and told them how they were going to win the battle the following morning against such overwhelming odds. They would not try to defeat the entire Persian army. There were too many. They would instead focus their army and hurl it like a spear into the center of the Persian line at Darius himself. Then Alexander told his officers to go back to their troops and give them the order of battle. It was simply, "Kill Darius!"
After the battle began, at the appropriate moment, Alexander led his companion cavalry, perhaps the finest cavalry in the world at that time, into the center of the Persian army, straight at Darius. The attack came so suddenly that Darius was completely unprepared. According to historians, Darius leaped onto a mare and rode frantically off the battlefield, leaving his army to fend for itself.
Just as Alexander had predicted, the army soon began to break up and scatter. At the end of the day, he had destroyed the Persian army and become master of the greatest empire in the world. One key lesson from Darius's defeat is that you as a leader cannot abandon your team or neglect your primary objective no matter how sudden or furious the challenge you're experiencing. Your behavior at that key moment has huge influence on your team and on your chances for victory.
The Principle of the Offensive
Even though Alexander was greatly outnumbered by the army of Darius, he initiated the attack and thereby took control of the battle. His actions illustrate what Napoleon said many years later: "No great battles are ever won on the defensive."
Your ability to develop your strategic plan and then to launch it like a javelin into the heart of the market, practicing the "continuous offensive," enables you to take the initiative and control your financial destiny.
The Principle of Concentration
Alexander was able to concentrate his forces on one objective, the Persian king Darius. In business, your ability to concentrate your limited resources on selling the very best products and services you offer to the very best potential prospects for those products and services is the key to business victory.
The Principle of Economy
Alexander used his outnumbered forces to accomplish the objective with the least expenditure of men and resources. By the end of the day, the Persian army was eliminated as a fighting force while the casualties to Alexander's army were minor.
In strategic thinking, your goal is to use brain power and creativity to achieve your goals of market success with the minimum possible expenditure of time and money.
The Principle of Flexibility
The greatest talent an organization can acquire is flexibility. Alexander's forces were able to remain flexible and shift the direction of attack when the opportunity arose. Each officer on the field had the authority to act in response to changing conditions. In the Persian army, Darius was the supreme commander. Each officer was assigned to perform a specific function without deviation or diversion. When the battle unfolded in an unexpected way, the Persian army was unable to adapt fast enough.
In business, with turbulence, uncertainty, and change taking place incessantly, unpredictably, and unexpectedly, you must maintain the flexibility to change your product/service mix, people and assignments, markets and sales techniques, products and prices, and every other factor of your business to achieve sales and profitability against determined competition.
The Principle of Surprise
Alexander used surprise to his great advantage. Instead of lining up his Macedonian soldiers in a long row to confront the Persian army, making it easy for the Persians to overlap the Macedonians on the flanks, Alexander organized his army in a more flexible formation, which allowed him to shift his point of attack and forces as the battle unfolded.
In your business, you must be prepared to do the unexpected, to counter your competition with rapid changes in products, prices, promotional methods, and places of sale. You must always think of doing something that your competition has not anticipated.
The Principle of Momentum
Once Alexander achieved his desired objective by driving Darius from the field, he immediately focused all his forces to exploit his "market advantage" to the fullest extent possible in the shortest period of time, thereby achieving the destruction of the Persian army.
In business, once you have a market advantage, you must "sell all you can." You must seize the day and press forward aggressively to achieve every dollar of profitable sales that you possibly can while the window of opportunity is open and before your competition has a chance to counterattack.
Business coach Marshall Goldsmith says, "There are three factors that must dominate your thinking and which will determine your success or failure: competition, competition, and competition."
This article is excerpted, with permission of the publisher from Now…Build a Great Business: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Profits in Any Market by Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy. Copyright 2010, Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy. Published by AMACOM. For more information: www.amacombooks.org