Sun Tzu And The Art Of Business

Business books worth a look.
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3 min read

This story appears in the January 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you've everfelt that business is like war (and who hasn't pondered the similarities?), a new business book based on the teachings of an ancient Chinese warrior has much to offer. Businesspeople have studied Sun Tzu's centuries-old military classic The Art of War for years. Now, in Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles for Managers (Oxford University Press, $25 cloth), author Mark McNeilly offers a business translation of Sun Tzu's ideas.

"Because business by definition deals with competition, Sun Tzu's principles are ideally suited to competitive business situations," McNeilly observes.

Don't get the wrong idea: This isn't a crush-your-competitors-into-the-ground strategy. To the contrary, one of Sun Tzu's dictates is to "win all without fighting." As McNeilly describes it, this means capturing your market without destroying it.

In the final analysis, much of Sun Tzu's wisdom seems to be grounded in good old-fashioned common sense--you'd obviously want to go after a competitor's weaknesses instead of their strengths, right? But, as McNeilly illustrates, companies repeatedly fail to employ smart tactics when doing battle with each other. No victorious warriors, they.

Trends 2000

What will be hot in the year 2000? In Trends 2000: How to Prepare for and Profit From the Changes of the 21st Century (Warner Books, $24 cloth), Gerald Celente predicts the shape of things to come. As founder of the Trends Research Institute, Celente is better equipped than most of us to undertake this task--and if even half of his forecasts prove accurate, get ready for a significantly changed world.

For starters, there's the expected boom in videophones--devices that allow users to not only reach out and touch someone but see that someone as well. (Thankfully, a "blind button" will guard against unsolicited callers.) Another development to look forward to are the introduction of so-called longevity centers, which will treat patrons to clean food, clean water and clean air.

Along those health-related lines, Celente also tells trend trackers to watch out for the rise in healthy fast food (not an oxymoron, as it turns out). And don't be surprised to see online voting, involuntary voluntary simplicity (again, not an oxymoron), and ecotourism gain in popularity, too.

There's no guarantee, of course, but Trends 2000 may well help you position your business to be in the right place at the right time.

Business Brief

Time-pressed entrepreneurs will surely appreciate the straightforwardness of Russ Wild's Business Briefs: 165 Guiding Principles From the World's Sharpest Minds (Peterson's/Pacesetter Books, $16.95 paper). As the title suggests, this book won't demand much reading time, and the sections can be read in whatever order you choose.

How best to run a meeting? Make sure your group sticks to the agenda. What sort of etiquette should be followed at business lunches? Pick a restaurant you're familiar with, and don't choose anything messy to eat. Other areas Wild delves into are enhancing creativity and decision-making skills, clearing off that mountain of paper on your desk, and making business presentations.

Although not all tips are geared toward employers, there's enough entrepreneurial information provided to make Business Briefs worthwhile.

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