Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things you can learn from the army.

Investigation - Preparation - Planning.
Perhaps, as it happens to many people, it has also happened to you that when you refer to your business you have ended up using phrases like "price war", "closing of death", you may have sometime called your competitors, "enemies" or something like that, and it all indicates that you feel the fight to succeed in business is a "tough battle" and must "be fought to the end", to the very last minute.

And considering that sometimes we refer to the market as a battle or war, I started thinking about the many things we can really learn from the army.

If you take a look at the daily life of every battalion, squadron or military unit, there are two things that are happening continuously:
  1. They’re always gathering relevant information about potential enemies and even their own allies, the weapons they buy, the investigations carried out, and also about their social and political environments, their economies. In brief, they keep track of any information that could eventually mean a potential conflict is on the making. This is what we refer to as "intelligence work", right?
  2. They ‘re continually training their minds and bodies getting ready for that one day in which something could go wrong and a real conflict happens. That is, even if the conflict has not exploded yet, they are always prepared as if it could happen the day after. 
If you take these two ideas to your business, what do they mean to you? Don’t they tell you something about how you should analyze your market and therefore your competition? What do they say about the ongoing preparation and professional development, both of yours and that of your employees?

Perhaps it’s not your case, hopefully, but for many business owners and independent professionals the last time they took the books was while obtaining their college degrees or graduated from high school, and then they set out to work and make money without having any additional opportunities to update their knowledge base or, as some people say today, "to recycle themselves". Is this your situation? Is this the situation of your employees?

Returning to the army example, if a conflict breaks out what happens?
  1. An extensive planning process begins and analysis of different scenarios is done, based on all information gathered during the intelligence work. 
  2. Setting of goals and perfectly clear objectives (well… almost always) is done before taking any action. 
  3. Having defined their objectives and actions’ plan, then they do proceed to its implementation, making use of all available resources and that human factor which has been steadily preparing for this moment. 
  4. During the conflict itself, they continuously monitor if established goals are being achieved, and if things don’t go as expected, they then make decisions to change course, revisit their actions’ plan and continue the monitoring process.
Let’s get back to your business. Where does it all fit? Doesn’t it look to you like a day on your product’s life and its ongoing struggle to achieve success, increase sales, and gain your customer’s preference and loyalty? This is the "war" you have referred to sometimes, but maybe without completely and truly realizing or understanding why you called it that way either, and even though you were referring to a “war” you didn’t pay enough attention to it or you didn’t work hard enough to really get prepared and “win that war”, as soldiers do every single day of their lives.

Maybe you've just been sailing along with the tide, without having real control of your path or not even taking that much care on all the things you were doing. And you can continue to do it the same way without taking it so seriously, until you come to think that, maybe, some of your competitors are doing it as they have to, and are planning to win the battle, take your product down and bring theirs to the top position, while at the same time winning the loyalty and confidence of those customers you also wanted to approach to.

Where is this all leading you to? I bring these ideas to your attention just for you to consider once you have decided to join the market with your product or brand, or if you're already competing with other products, companies or brands. Maybe some of them don’t take this way of action into consideration; maybe some other do and decide to confront their product against yours.

This is the war that you were referring to when innocently make those remarks with your friends, maybe be while having some beers or sipping coffee. Remember when you said that "the fight was tough" or that there was a "tremendous price war" and so forth? Well, this is it.

Take into consideration how things are done in the army, and above all, keep in mind the discipline and seriousness with which soldiers get prepared every single day for that struggle, which in their case, might never happen, but that in your case maybe the environment in which your products spends every day. Don’t let competitors take you by surprise and carefully plan and understand the next things you will do so that your product becomes the leader, the big winner on its segment.

Don’t you think it will be a good idea?

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