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If Patton ran your business

The strategy and warfare of business

Do you remember as a child playing a game called, “king of the hill”? It usually required a high spot of land on which the tallest or strongest kid would stand. Their task was to keep all other kids off of the high spot.

All other kids playing the game would have to determine their strategy as to how they could take the “king’s” position. Perhaps a kid that was comparable in size and strength would directly attack the position. Others that were smaller would have to select a different strategy. If the ‘hill’ were large enough, they would perhaps attempt to only take a small position, so as to be flanking the king but not directly attacking.

Others may wait until others have distracted the king and then quickly made their move to control the hill. All of the strategies could, and would work for the various kids playing the game.

While this is but a kid’s game, it is actually a replay of a book entitled, “On War” that was written in the early 1980’s. It is reported to have been the basis on which many armies have fought their battles. In the movie, ‘Patton’, George C. Scott makes a reference to the book. And for cadets attending West Point, this book is still a part of their reading material.

This book continues to be relevant today as every business meets the ongoing challenges from their competitors. Just as the book details, being successful requires using two items, and doing so properly. The first item is to determine your strategy. In business, it is just like the kid’s game; if you are the biggest, strongest (or perhaps with the most money) you can be the one that defends a position.

However, this strategy will not work if you are not the biggest business, or if you do not have as much money, or well known name, as a competitor.

Likewise, the strategy of someone that can attack the defender would likely require that they have the similar characteristics of the defender. Experience has shown that too many businesses think that their years of being in business, or their desire allows them to assume the position of the defender or the one being on offense. Neither of these ‘strengths’ are applicable to being in either of these first two positions. And, as the book details, it can be fatal to a business to attempt to use a strategy that is not appropriate for them.
The third strategy is one of a flanker. The flanker is one that knows they have to steer clear of both the business that is the defender and the business that is taking the offense position. It is perhaps more appropriate for the flanker to understand that they will not be able to take the position of the king, but should instead work to take their market share. It would not be appropriate for their business to attempt to become the king of the hill as they do not have the resources or staff to maintain the position.

The fourth strategy is the one for the business that are best equipped to take the guerrilla warrior approach. This business is likely to profit best when they look to take a commanding position in a specialty aspect of the industry.

In addition to the requirement that the proper strategy be taken, the second component is that tactics be determined to implement the strategy. And with the tactics, just like the strategy, they must be correct for there to be success.

Before you visit the SEMA Show, you will likely want to sit down and carefully re-examine your business, asking yourself, ‘For me to be successful and profitable, what is the proper strategy for my business considering my financial resources, competition, staff, and opportunities within the automotive industry in my community.

Making that decision between the four strategies as to which is proper for your business, you should then begin to think about how you will carry out your strategy with tactics that will allow you to get your message to the customers that are most likely to be attracted to the strategy your business has taken.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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