Sun Tzu on organising your business affairs (part 2)

PART 2 considers the principles developed by Sun Tzu on organising your business affairs, and follows on from part one which looked at qualities of successful leaders,

I have summarised Sun Tzu’s principles into four simple categories:

  1. Qualities of a successful leader;
  2. Oranising your business affairs;
  3. Dealing with rivals; and
  4. Strategies for effective leadership.

2. Organising your business affairs

2.1 Management must be independent of owners

If you are the CEO of a company, you must not take directions from the owner or shareholders in how to run the day to day affairs of the company.

If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the [owner] forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the [owner]’s bidding.

2.2 Make preparations

You must constantly plan, prepare and train your employees. If you do not, you will not be in a good position to take advantage of the next exciting business opportunity.

…the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.

He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the [competitor] unprepared.

2.3 Make no mistakes

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering [a competitor] that is already defeated.

2.4 Prioritise tasks

Having limited capital and resources at his disposal, an experienced leader must prioritise tasks in order to achieve specific goals.

2.5 Choose your battles

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

2.6 Work swiftly in short bursts

The chief lesson is the paramount importance in business of rapid action and sudden rushes, “great results can thus be achieved with small forces.”

2.7 Adapt to the circumstances

In business, there are no constant conditions and you must adapt your strategies accordingly.

Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.

2.8 Pay attention to changing market conditions

The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambuscade. “When birds that are flying along in a straight line suddenly shoot upwards, it means that soldiers are in ambush at the spot beneath.

2.9 Adapt your strategy to the size of your organisation

You must adapt your business strategy to the size of the company and its competitors. For example, a large company may be suited to producing commodities; a small company may be better suited to producing highly specialised differentiated products.

He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.

2.10 Seize opportunities

Look for gaps in the market.

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.

Always be ready to seize the next big opportunity, especially when you are facing business difficulties.

If…in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.

Those who want to make sure of succeeding in their battles and assaults must seize the favourable moments… [w]hat they must not do, and what will prove fatal, is to sit still and simply hold on to the advantages they have got.

2.11 Avoid threats

If you can establish a business that has a natural monopoly, high barriers to entry or some other competitive advantage, this will greatly reduce the competition. For example, eBay has a natural monopoly in the online auction market. Buyers and sellers are naturally drawn to eBay because so many other people already use the site. This makes it easier for sellers to find a buyer and easier for buyers to find a product that takes their fancy.

You can ensure the safety of your defence if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.

2.12 Obey the rules until the decisive moment arrives

Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle [then] [d]iscard hard and fast rules. Victory is the only thing that matters, and this cannot be achieved by adhering to conventional cannons.

List of consulting firms in Australia

AN IMPORTANT step towards obtaining a job in a consulting firm is to create a target list of firms that you would like to work for. This can be a very time consuming process.

With the view to saving you a couple of hours, I have prepared a list of consulting firms operating in Australia. This is not an exhaustive list, so if I have overlooked any good consulting firms (I have), let me know.

To make it easier to find the consulting firm you are looking for, consulting firms have been grouped in one of four categories: Strategy and general business, Human resources, Information technology, and Sustainability. Where a consultancy could have been placed under more than one heading, I have placed under the heading I thought was most relevant.

Although some of the consulting firms listed below operate internationally, I have created this list specifically for Australia, but don’t despair! I intend to create specific lists for other countries, for example, India, the UK, USA, Singapore, and China. I plan to do this over the next few months.

Of all the firms I looked at, I have only included the ones that appeared to be of good quality. If you have used any of these firms, please let everyone know what you thought of them – the good and the bad.

Since there are quite a few firms, I have broken the list down into four categories:

  1. Strategy and general business consulting
  2. HR (human resources) consulting
  3. IT (information technology) consulting
  4. Sustainability consulting

HR consulting firms in Australia 2008

HR consulting firms

THE list of HR consulting firms is part of the full list of consulting firms in Australia:

  1. Amazing Results
  2. Greg Bailey Consulting
  3. Inspiritive
  4. Maxumise
  5. Michael Page International
  6. Right Consulting

1. Amazing Results

Website: www.amazingresults.com.au

Amazing Results has its head office in Sydney and also operates out of Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.

Amazing Results is an Australian human resources consulting firm, which provides talent management, resume assistance, business mentoring and coaching, HR and performance assessment services.

2. Greg Bailey Consulting

Website: www.gbc.net.au

Founded in 2003, GBC is based in Melbourne.

GBC is a boutique consulting firm, specialising in the fields of contact centre management, service delivery, and customer service training.

3. Inspiritive

Website: www.inspiritive.com.au

Founded in 1992, Inspiritive is located in Sydney and Melbourne.

Inspiritive is a training and consulting company specialising in the development, teaching and application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

4. Maxumise

Website: www.maxumise.com.au

Founded in 1996, Maxumise has offices in Sydney, Fiji and London.

Maxumise provides organisational and human resource consulting services.

5. Michael Page International

Website: www.michaelpage.com.au

Founded in 1976, the Group operates through 149 offices in 25 countries worldwide. In Australia, Michael Page operates in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Michael Page is a leading professional recruitment consultancy specialising in the recruitment of permanent, contract and temporary positions on behalf of the world’s top employers.

6. Right Consulting

Website: www.right.com

Founded in 1980, Right Consulting operates in over 300 locations across 50 countries. In Australia, Right Consulting operates in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Right Consulting helps companies to attract and assess talent, develop and train staff, engage and align people with organisations, and help to provide outplacement initiatives.

IT consulting firms in Australia 2008

THE list of IT consulting firms is part of the full list of consulting firms in Australia:

  1. The DLA Group
  2. JDCA Technology Dimensions
  3. Red Prime Media & Communications
  4. SMS Management & Technology
  5. Wiliam

1. The DLA Group

Website: www.dlagroup.com.au

DLA is located in Sydney.

The DLA Group is an IT consulting, software development and distribution company. DLA’s clients include many multi-nationals, government and vertical market software development groups who rely on DLA for strategic IT advice, technical support and knowledge management software.

2. JDCA Technology Dimensions

Website: www.jdca.com.au

Founded in 1984, JDCA operates out of Sydney.

JDCA Technology Dimensions specialises in the provision of technology-related services to small to medium enterprises.

3. Red Prime Media & Communications

Website: www.red-prime.com.au

Founded in 2006, Red Prime Media & Communication, originally called Summer Internet, is located in Melbourne.

The primary interest of Red Prime is in web consulting and web marketing for international businesses, helping them bridge businesses between China and Australia. Red Prime specialises in multi-lingual websites.

4. SMS Management & Technology

Website: www.smsmt.com

Founded in 1986 on the basis of three core rules: add value, maintain unity and enhance reputation. SMS has offices in the ACT, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Mackay QLD, Mawson Lakes SA, and Singapore.

SMS claims to be Australia’s largest publicly listed Management Services Company, providing consulting, resourcing and technology services to Australian and international governments and corporations.

5. Wiliam

Website: www.wiliam.com.au

Founded in 1997, Wiliam is based in Sydney.

Wiliam is a leading Australian web site design, development, strategy and online marketing firm.

Sun Tzu on the art of leadership – qualities of a successful leader

Background to The Art of War

SUN TZU wrote The Art of War in approximately 490BC in the Kingdom of Wu, China, and became a general for the King of Wu in 512 BC. For the next 39 years his precepts were followed and the Kingdom of Wu was victorious. And then, they forgot … the armies of Wu were defeated and the Kingdom made extinct.

In 1782, The Art of War was first translated into French by a Jesuit, Father Amiot. There is a legend that it was Napoleon’s key to success and his secret weapon and the first English translation was produced by P.F. Calthrop in 1905.

In reading The Art of War I have tried to think about how Sun Tzu’s military principles provide a timeless guide to modern business leadership.

Dr. Foo Check Teck, Asia’s foremost expert on Sun Tzu, says, “I found many more CEO’s and entrepreneurs, especially those who had to compete at the edge, are unconsciously applying Sun Tzu’s ping-fa (Law of Soldiering).”

The essence of business, like war, is to pursue goals and achieve success (Dr. Raymond Yeh). Success, or even your proximity to success, can make you a target to those who oppose that success, however they might choose to fight you. That is why understanding Sun Tzu’s Art of War can prove advantageous to just about anyone (Robert L. Cantrell, consultant and author of Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War).

I have summarised Sun Tzu’s principles into four simple categories:

  1. Qualities of a successful leader;
  2. Oranising your business affairs;
  3. Dealing with rivals; and
  4. Strategies for effective leadership.

If you’re interested in The Art of War and want to read more, check out both Sonshi.com and Wikipedia.

1. Qualities of a successful leader

1.1 Discipline

A leader must be disciplined. Having discipline includes maintaining the hierarchy within the organisation; clearly defining the specific roles and responsibilities of members of management; maintaining systems to ensure delivery of services by suppliers and payment from customers; and controlling expenditure.

I fully believe he was a good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he acted without orders.

1.2 Presence of mind

Presence of mind is the ability to stay calm and act sensibly in a crisis. This is a leader’s most important asset.

1.3 Self respect

If you do not respect yourself, your men will not respect you. If your men do not respect you, they will be unresponsive to orders and will delight in undermining your authority and reputation.

1.4 Wisdom, sincerity and good faith

If your decisions are well thought out and you act honestly, your men will trust you. If you are trusted, people will speak their mind freely and openly, which means business problems can be solved more quickly and effectively.

1.5 Prompt decision making

In a competitive business environment time is always of the essence. As such, a successful leader needs to make quick decisions.

…though we have heard of stupid haste in [business], cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.