Applying Military Lessons to Business

July 27, 2018


Bob Kelly

The three years I spent in the Army had a profoundly positive impact on my life. I firmly believe serving in the military was one of my greatest honors and should be mandatory for every US citizen. During those three years, we were all trained on the usage of various weapons and survival on the battlefield. At that time, I thought that I would never use these skills after I left the service. Well, I was wrong. I found out later many of these lessons would be applicable in the civilian business world. The central theme of every lesson was the importance of "action." The performance of action is critical to both the battlefield and also in the business world. Here's what I mean:

Stealth and quickness... until you're engaged 

Army: Remain invisible to your enemy. Never reveal your position.

Business: Remain unseen until you have a business model that works and has paying customers. Staying in a stealth position and do not "shout from the highest tree." When competing against a larger company, avoid "pushing out your chest" before the time is right. Larger companies can bury smaller companies if you engage too soon and on their terms. On the other hand, smaller businesses have the strength of agility. Smaller companies can respond quickly to change and can make decisions quicker.

When in the fight, "bring it ALL"

Army: When you are engaged, the enemy will access your assets and location, as quickly as they can. By surprising them with everything and from multiple locations, you will disorient the enemy. You will appear more substantial than you might be and this is good. 

Business: When you are ready to bring your product or service to the marketplace, do it. Don't slowly bring it out (drip-by-drip). If you genuinely have a better idea, companies with larger budgets will steal your idea and incorporate your design and make it theirs. Instead, launch into the marketplace boldly but not arrogantly.

Quickly, shorten the distance with your objective

Army: If you are forced to engage up close (aka hand-to-hand), it's essential to fight the enemy on your terms. Doing this will give you focus and control, and prevent reacting to every situation.

Business: Identify and focus on achieving specific business objectives. Assign a focus (or responsibility) to each person on your team and have them "own it." Define who will focus on sales, customers support, accounting, etc.

Dominate your objective quickly 

Army: Once you've closed the distance with your enemy, dominate them.

Business: As a business owner, your objective might be to be the "number 1 product or service" in the world. Even if it's a lofty goal, Win the closest battles by starting small and then expanding your geography. 

Hold your ground and don't give it up 

Army: After you've fought to achieve your ground, maintain it! Don't give it up.

Business: Once you've achieved your business objective, or gained a specific customer, stay focused on maintaining that goal. I can guarantee you that your competition is plotting to take away what you've just achieved.

After Achieving Your Objective, Quickly Move Out 

Army: Once you've secured your new area, move on to the next objective. The enemy that you've just supplanted will now be planning to regain what they just lost. Your enemy now knows your size, your tactics, and what to expect. If you stay where you're at, you'll go from being the "hunter" to the "hunted." Bring that same fight somewhere else.

Business: So many times, we see companies become number 1 in their field, become complacent and die. Your competition will continuously be looking for ways to outperform you. It's at this time that the leaders need to lead the company to achieve the next objective.