Si vis pacem, para bellum, translated “if you want peace, prepare for war” is an exceptional mantra to adopt in both your personal and business lives. While it sounds like something that would come from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. It does not. Rather, the phrase comes from book three of De Re Militari by Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus. A first-of-its-kind war manual for Roman troops.
Business management is often looked at as a militaristic endeavor. We have the war room, wear suits that dictate our prestige in the company, and even give marching orders. As such, we naturally gravitate to the military leadership and wisdom from war-tested individuals such as Tzu and Renatus.
It is important to note that when you read these manuals you will notice that much of the works are devoted to preserving life and, especially in Tzu’s work, avoiding a battle until absolutely necessary. As he points out, actual battle is costly – you lose both life and wealth in the process. Tzu is consistent in his message of continually analyzing your opponent, the battlefield, and your position relative to both so that when the opportunity or need for war arises. You are better prepared to end the matter quickly and efficiently.
This is exactly the same in business. As a leader, you should always know what is going on in your battlefield. Is a long-time supplier suddenly providing materials to a competitor? Are there signs of your market shrinking… expanding… or disappearing altogether? Are your employees showing signs of complacency? Perhaps, your customers are discussing other options under their collective breath? These are all items a general should not only know but constantly analyze and calculate against the firm’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
These suggestions are not meant to create paranoid leaders. Rather, they are to remind said boardroom generals that peace in business is not achieved because you defeated a competitor. You will always have new competitors, fleeting customers, changing regulations, and world events that will impact your bottom line. Peace comes from accepting those fates and doing everything in your power to prepare for the wars that may come, so your army can win the battle quickly and efficiently.