Business Tools

What if General Patton Ran Your Business?

As part of a three-part workshop at the 2009 SEMA Show, Tom Shay of Profits+Plus will help participants determine strategies and tactics they can use to combat their competitors and make 2010 a winning year. Participants will have the opportunity to see how businesses in other industries have successfully, and unsuccessfully, made decisions about their strategies and tactics. Here Shay outlines the foundation of his seminar content.

Do you remember as a child playing a game called “King of the Hill?” Usually it required a high spot of land on which the tallest or strongest kid would stand, whose task was to keep other kids off the high spot. All the other kids playing the game would have to determine a strategy to take the "king's" position.

Perhaps a kid that was comparable in size and strength would directly attack the position. Others would have to select a different strategy, perhaps taking only a small position that flanked the king, but did not directly attack. Still others might wait for a distraction and quickly move to take control of the hill.

And while this is a kid's game, it’s actually a replay of "On War" a book written in the early ‘80's and reportedly the basis for the battle plans of many armies. George C. Scott references the book in the movie “Patton,” and it’s still part of reading material for West Point cadets.

“On War” continues to be relevant today as every business meets ongoing challenges from its competitors. The book explains that success depends on two factors. The first is determining strategy. In business, like “King of the Hill,” if you are the biggest, strongest—or perhaps just have the most money—you can be the one that defends a position.

This strategy won’t work if you’re not the biggest business, or if you don’t have as much money or a name as well-known 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 for 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 is 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 to achieve success.

Before you visit the SEMA Show, you’ll likely want to sit down, carefully re-examine your business and ask yourself: “what is the proper strategy for my business to be successful and profitable, considering my financial resources, competition, staff, and opportunities within the automotive industry in my community?”

Deciding which of the four strategies 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.

Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time: 11:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m.

Track: Small Biz Management

Seminar: If Patton Ran Your Business, Part I, II, III

Description: General George S. Patton was an outstanding leader and he had unique ideas about how to lead the troops under his command. During this three-part workshop, Shay will help participants determine the strategies and tactics they will utilize as they combat their competitors and make 2010 a winning year.

Speaker: Tom Shay, Profits+Plus