I watched the History Channel’s special entitled “The World Wars” about war leaders such as Mussolini, Douglas MacArthur, FDR, Winston Churchill, and Adolph Hitler. I have counseled hundreds of small businesses and worked under several leaders over the course of my careers. Often, the competitive nature of business development has been and can be compared to being at war. Here’s nine (9) leadership lessons I learned from the war leaders:
- Have fast moving forces – Adolph Hitler was known for having fast moving forces that could punch a hole in the enemy’s territory and their speed would impact the enemy’s nervous system. This was called a brain and heart assault. I have witnessed many, many slow moving business leaders and equally slow moving troops that follow. Being decisive and well trained to move out fast in business can help knock out the competition. Leaders bear the responsibility to make judgments and motivate their troops to move out quickly. The competition would not know what hit them!
- Be not a dictator in your business – On the History Channel program, Colin Powell explained that dictators think that they know best; they do not listen to others; and they do not keep anyone around them that will tell them otherwise. Years ago, I worked for a dictator. Many years ago, I worked for a dictator who was a small business owner. He never listened to his staff’s ideas and if they did not agree with him, he would fire them. I later found out that when I left, he had cycled through more than 60 professional staff people. This is a ridiculously high turn over rate in his industry. If you are guilty of this, then it is best to go see a psycho therapist and get some professional help fast!
- Know your competition’s, client’s, and prospect’s ultimate dreams – With respect to Adolph Hitler, his ultimate dream was to gain world dominance. Trying to appease someone like this to avoid war and to negotiate diplomatic solutions is fruitless. Very few small business leaders take time out to study their competition, client’s and prospect’s, get to know what makes them tick, and study their long term goals. The more intelligence you know about what they need, want, and their mission, the better you can strategize what might work in business negotiations.
- Tap into your intuitive sense to figure out who your friends and foes are – Winston Churchill was praised for having an intuitive sense of knowing who his enemies were. He knew early on that Adolph Hitler was a true enemy and would be ruthless and blood thirsty.
- Test the competition’s oil – When I fry food, I get the grease hot and then I sprinkle a little water in it to test the oil to find out if it is ready and hot enough for cooking. Adolph Hitler used this strategy to size up his competition. He moved out on small confrontations to study what the enemy would do in response to his maneauvers. Adolph Hitler found that Great Britain and France to be passive with respect to war and in his opinion, weak opponents. This strategy can be used in business development. Test the oil. Enter a territory and then study who surfaces. I do this a lot. I will put something out there and then the phone rings and emails come in and friend requests on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter … hmmm … Don’t be too quick to think that these are all new client prospects. Some of your competitors will surface in a very overt, defensive way. You will see who is aligned with whom. Do your due diligence and test the oil!
- Be ok with competition, send them running, and make them surrender – When I started my business nearly 10 years ago, I really, really did not like sales. I was a “professional” and the sales profession seemed to lack professionalism. When I thought of a sales person, I thought “snake oil” and “lemon cars”. I got over this quickly because I needed to survive. Earlier this year, I met a female business owner whose business is dwindling. She told me that some customers complain when they use her lower priced competitor’s services. So, I suggested that she use that to her advantage. We were in a bit of a master mind group meeting setting and others agreed. She replied, “oh no! I would never bad mouth the competition in order to get new business”. I told her that with a mindset change, she could view this very differently. Unfortunately, I observe this mindset in more female business owners than in male owners. Instead of focusing on the fact that the competition might lose business and suffer, she should focus on what is best for the customer. The customer deserves her service because of the better value for the money. War leaders are ok with competition because their troops’ lives are on the line. The same is true in business. Our family and our employee’s family livelihoods are on the line. In business, it may come down to moving an existing vendor out, so that you can enter. This is analogous to sending them running and making them surrender that turf. May the better man or woman win!
- Seek every tactical advantage – Douglas MacArthur was praised for using intel to find defects in the enemy lines and exploiting these areas of weakness. This strategy can certainly be used in business as well.
- Use an 100 day defensive – This is an all out defense of movement with a dominant, well trained, fit fighting force in order to break out of the trenches. Why not draft and implement an all out marketing and sales attack starting with a marketing plan. Hit the market place with everything you have. Your competition would not know what hit them!
Did you watch the History Channel special? If so, what leadership lessons did you learn?
By Clovia Hamilton, MBA JD President Lemongrass Consulting
(c) 2014. All Rights Reserved. Lemongrass Consulting.