It’s Time To Fight Our Way Out Of It!

By Phil Jesson, Marketing Director, The Academy for Chief Executives

Hundreds of years ago, with the prospect of an industrial revolution on the horizon, business needed a “model” to follow as it was little more than an unsophisticated collection of local butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

There were two obvious and proven models available at the time — the Church and the Army. The Army model was better suited and, from that moment on, new businesses embarked on four key strategies that can still be found in both military and commercial circles today:-

• OFFENCE — attacking market share and competitors
• DEFENCE — protecting customers
• ALLIANCE — forming strong partnerships and networks
• DETERRENCE — exploiting fears and doubts

In business today we are all “up against it” so maybe it is time to put your flak jacket and helmet on and inspect your company as if you were a “commercial Major”. To assist your “inspection” here is a list featuring the 20 reasons behind famous (or “infamous”) military campaigns over the centuries. As you can see, these campaigns failed due to poor intelligence, poor intentions or poor implementation — does this sound all too familiar? Why not view the 20 points as a check-list and give yourself either a tick or a cross……………


1. Lack of thorough reconnaissance and research — “It is difficult to plan a campaign unless you know where you are starting from!”

2. Failure to encourage news from the front

3. Rejecting intelligence if it conflicts with own preconceptions – “A wise chieftain should never kill a messenger bearing bad news. A wise chieftain should kill the messenger who fails to deliver bad news!”

4. Not learning from previous campaigns and experiences

5. Failure to “get inside the enemy’s head” and understand their motives — “If you know the enemy and yourself you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy you will suffer a defeat for every victory gained. If you know neither the enemy not yourself you will suffer in every battle!”

6. Pulling rank and stifling an open debate


7. Unclear purpose, mission and objectives — “Show me a soldier who knows where he is going and I will show you a soldier who is already half-way there!”

8. Overestimating own capabilities

9. Attacking the enemy’s strongest point rather than their weakest point

10. Deciding to open up a second front before consolidating the first


11. Setting off without being prepared — “If you have eight hours to cut down a tree you should spend six of them sharpening your axe!”

12. Poor leadership up and down the line — “There is no such thing as a bad Regiment, just bad officers!”

13. No top-brass “management by walking about” — “It is not speeches at the moment of battle that render soldiers brave. The veteran scarcely listens and the new recruit forgets them at the first shot. If speeches are useful it is during the campaign — doing away with unfavourable impressions, correcting false reports and keeping alive a proper spirit in the camp.”

14. Taking too long to deliver a decisive strike — “A good plan actioned today is better than a perfect plan actioned next month!”

15. Lack of delegation — “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what needs doing and why and let them surprise you with their ingenuity. If they help plan the battle they won’t battle the plan!”

16. Acceptance of mystical forces eg “fate” and “bad luck” when things go wrong

17. Too thin on the ground — “March dispersed, fight concentrated!”

18. Admin and logistics support arriving late in the day

19. Poor morale — “Wars may be fought with weapons but they are not won by weapons — they are won by people! It is the spirit of the leader and the spirit of the people who follow that gains the victory!”

20. Friendly fire — shooting colleagues by mistake!

So how did you score? Is your firepower aligned and pointed in the right direction or have you still some training and redeployment to do? If you avoided most of the 20 fatal errors, well done! You are now promoted to “commercial General!” If not, maybe you need a refresher at business Sandhurst to improve those skills.

Watch a video of Phil Jesson suggesting ways to improve the relationship with your customers; “If you’re an expert in the customer’s world, you never have to sell again.”


Phil Jesson is Marketing Director of The Academy for Chief Executives www.chiefexecutive.com and is also a speaker, consultant and coach in key account management and the 80-20 Pareto Principle – www.philjesson.com . He has worked with Pirelli, Tarmac, Grant Thornton, EDF Energy, Bass and Fedex but is equally at home in the SME market. He has recently published his first business book “Piranhas In The Bidet” which has received many five-star reviews on www.amazon.co.uk

The above article is just a sample of the type of practical, no nonsense session that speakers such as Phil deliver to the members of ACE. The whole community is dedicated to inspiring the leaders of businesses to change their thinking, challenge their views and help them with their decision making abilities. Leaders no longer need to feel isolated at the top. For more information visit www.chiefexecutive.com

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