A 2,000-year-old book continues to have a major influence on today’s business thinking.
No, it’s not the bible.
It’s “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. It’s about war, thus the title. But its principles have made it go to reading for business professionals for more than 50 years.
For B2B tech startups, it’s helpful to know some of Sun Tzu’s key concepts as you look to grow your company.
Know Your Owns Strengths and Weaknesses
You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your competitors. That includes in-depth market research and understanding the competitive landscape.
For boot-strapped entrepreneurs without much budget, this might be done by serious internet rabbit hole time, talking to friends in the field, checking out trade publications, or heading to the local library (very old-fashioned, but still valuable).
Trade reporters are full of good insight into the marketplace; if you have a relationship with one—it would be worth your while to pick their brain.
Don’t forget to tap your team; it can be surprising how much knowledge is already on the payroll. Conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with your employees often provides excellent insights.
By understanding the competitive landscape, businesses can better position themselves for success and avoid costly mistakes.
Remain Flexible and Adaptable
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
Professional comedians at the top of their craft still test out new jokes on small audiences to see if they work.
Hollywood blockbusters, which have incredibly talented teams of writers and producers, often do reshoots for movie sections after they get reactions from test audiences.
In the same way, companies need to adjust quickly to changes in the market and to respond to new opportunities and challenges.
This requires a willingness to experiment and take calculated risks, as well as the ability to pivot quickly when things don’t go as planned.
By being flexible and adaptable, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in a rapidly changing market.
Clear and Regular Communication
When you are a small startup, you know everyone and get into habits around communication. It’s mostly information and very frequent.
As you begin to scale, the initial habits will no longer work, and attention will have to be paid to how, what, and how frequently you communicate with your team about your vision for the company and your strategy for success.
This goes for customers and other stakeholders.
A clear vision and strategy provide a roadmap for the future and give employees a sense of purpose and direction. By communicating this vision effectively, startups can build a strong and motivated team committed to achieving success.
Don’t Waste Time on Unnecessary Competition
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” That quote, or some version of it, is what most people know from “The Art of War.” It means the best war is one you don’t fight.
Strategy, innovation, and wits—rather than head-to-head competition—are critical for you to have an advantage in the marketplace. You might have the best product, but it won’t matter if you get buried by an incumbent with more resources.
Through creativity and innovation, startups can differentiate themselves from competitors and create a unique and compelling value proposition.
Hire A Great First Salesperson
Okay, Sun Tzu didn’t say that one. But from our interviews with industry leaders, research, and our personal experience, we know this one is critical.
We have found the best person is what we call a Pathfinder.
History shows that Pathfinders have the right vocational skills and mindsets to be successful first sales hire for startups. These include:
- A strong ability to deal with ambiguity. The first Sales hire role is one without a Playbook and, by definition, such an early startup lacks the support (e.g. lead generation) of other later-stage companies.
- A willingness and excitement around building the processes and procedures necessary for a successful Sales operation as an organization scales.
- A curiosity that allows for creative solutions.
- A hunger motivated by something quite different to most other Sales types. We’d characterise this motivation as intrinsic rather than extrinsic.
So, how do you go about finding these Pathfinders? The Right Five has developed a simple process that allows:
- Quick and painless hiring process: The Right Five automates the candidate assessment/scoring/communication leaving you simply with the selection of those Pathfinders you want to interview.
- Fast on-ramping: Because your first Sales hire needs to be a Pathfinder (the clue is in the name) their need for on-ramping is minimal. It’s their job to develop the repeatable Sales process that will allow you to scale, so they won’t expect red carpet treatment.
- Reduced risk: The Right Five reduces the risk for you because our online assessment/rules engine identifies Pathfinders, i.e the candidates who will be successful as the first Sales hire.
Curious to know more about the assessment? Want to see if you are a Pathfinder and a good match to be the first sales hire of a B2B tech startup? You can take the assessment here for free but make sure you check out the notes at the bottom of that post before you start. Your results are yours, we don’t share them with anyone.