3 Lessons New Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the Military

by Steve Waller · 20 comments

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Military
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This is a guest post from Steve Waller. I’m all about creativity and the variety of ways smart entrepreneurs can compare business to other things in life. In this case, the military!

And since I have a ton of appreciation for our military, even when I disagree with the way our government abuses it’s power, I thought this post a uniquely interesting fit for BGB.

Enjoy and if you find it interesting too, or have a question, please make Steve feel welcome in the comments below. 🙂 

Carl Von Clausewitz might not be a name that instantly springs to mind when you think about entrepreneurship. However, there’s much that can be learned form this German thinker.

Though far from being a household name, Carl Von Clausewitz has had a direct influence on some of the most important events in world history. Why?

Because his opus ‘On War’ which deals with military theory, though originally used by the Prussian army in the early 19th century, has gone on to inform the fundamental thinking behind the most of the world’s modern military organisations.

For, example the ten 10 principles of war taught in the British Defence Doctrine are loosely based on Clausewitz’s work. By taking a look the top 3 of these 10 principles, you’ll find lots of useful ideas that can be helpful to when starting out on a new enterprise.

Selection and Maintenance of the Aim

This dictum, often referred to as the “master principle” of war, is regarded as the single most important idea behind any operation.  Whilst your overall aim is always going to be a fairly vague goal such as “defeat the enemy” in the case of a war, or perhaps “break even within two years” for a business venture, these wider aims are only ever achievable when broken down into smaller tasks, which can then be handled one at a time.

For example, to go back to the military example, a commander would look at his wider goal (i.e. to win the battle) and then decide what the single most important factor in making this happen will be, say capturing a bridge, or cutting off a military supply line.

Obviously, for an a new entrepreneurial project your goals will be different, your focus may be on leveraging a better deal with a supplier, for instance, but the point remains, you have to identify what is most important to the project at that moment.

This is the ‘selection’ part of the principle. Next comes the ‘maintenance’. The important thing here is that, once you’ve chosen your one specific aim, you must continue to focus all your energies toward achieving it, rather than worrying about multiple things at once.

A good analogy to illustrate this idea is that of a sword. Think of the way the blade is edged down toward one fine cutting point. This design that means that when the blade hits it does so with more force per a square centre metre than you’d get with a blunted object.

When setting out on a venture you, like the blade, need to be sharp, concentrating all your effort on the one aspect of your project that you’ve identified as being most important for the time being.  If you spread yourself thinly, dealing with many aspects of the project at once, your efforts will be, so to speak, blunted.

Maintenance of Morale

This is regarded as the second most important principle of was and is, again, equally important when you embark upon an entrepreneurial venture. Napoleon wrote that “morale is to the physical as three is to one” highlighting the fact that the mentality you bring to a project is even more important to the physical resources you have at your disposal.

Whilst, being an entrepreneur  shouldn’t be as distressing as being on the frontline in a battle (at least, you’d hope not!), it certainly isn’t easy. Keeping up your morale is essential.

In the military the main method of maintaining morale is to make sure that the tasks given to soldiers are perceived as reasonable, achievable and something they can identify with. Only in this will they make the most of their potential.

The same is clearly true for an entrepreneur. As, for the most part you set your own goals, it seems like a no brainer that they should be something you find reasonable and achievable, but it very common for projects to fail because their ambitions are simply too lofty. Setting out this way is sure-fire way to ensure your motivation suffers further down the line.

Offensive Action

This principle is all about taking the initiative. In a war, no matter how well you defend a position, you can’t win unless, at some stage, you go out on the offensive.

Likewise, going out on a limb and taking a risk in the hope that it will pay off, rather than constantly playing it safe is what makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur!

If you got some enlightenment from this post in some way, do tell your pals about it and share it ’round the web. BGB’s growth thanks you and I personally thank you too! 😉

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