“The Art Of War” By Sun Tzu For Successful Business Tactics

Last Updated: September 25, 2023 | by Paul Harstrom

In a fiercely competitive business battleground, many small business owners face countless challenges that often seem unconquerable. “The Art Of War” By Sun Tzu provides successful business tactics that help to conquer these challenges.

Today’s business world is where giants dominate the market, technological advancements surpass traditional models, and economic fluctuations test our resilience.

As a small business owner, you might grapple with limited resources, the constant struggle to attract and retain customers, and the daunting task of keeping up with ever-evolving consumer demands; hence, fighting tooth and nail to secure your place in the market.

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Beyond these surface challenges, an internal struggle often remains unspoken. The feeling of doubt and uncertainty creeps in, wondering if your efforts will ever bear fruit. 

The long hours, sleepless nights, personal sacrifices, and overwhelming weight of responsibility upon one’s shoulder can take a toll on even the most determined spirit. 

So, What business tactics can help you tackle these challenges to gain profit and success and guide you to discover your true purpose?

This profound question creates a shared connection that compels us to seek answers together. This article will explore Sun Tzu’s Principles to learn Successful Business Tactics from the ancient military text “The Art Of War”. 

Discover how Sun Tzu 'The Art of War' can revolutionize successful business.

This book is armed with knowledge, wisdom, and an unwavering spirit. For it is in the face of obstacles that true leaders emerge, and through these battles, we forge our path to victory.

Who Was Sun Tzu?

Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese military strategist and philosopher who authored the influential work “The Art of War.” His teachings have transcended time and are widely studied and applied in various domains, including business, politics, sports, etc. 

Sun Tzu’s principles revolve around the following:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Understanding the competition, and
  • Adapting to changing circumstances

His insights emphasize the importance of knowing oneself, leveraging strengths, exploiting weaknesses, and also enhance leadership skills. As stated by the author:

“The leader of armies (your business) is the arbiter of the people’s fate (leadership is crucial) the man on whom it depends (the leader) whether the nation (business) shall be in peace or peril.”

By employing Sun Tzu’s principles, individuals can succeed by outmaneuvering rivals and making wise decisions.

The Best Summary of The Art of War Book by Sun Tzu:

In the summary of “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu’s main idea is about achieving success by minimizing conflict. He focuses on careful planning, being aware of the situation, and finding a balance between attacking and defending. 

These principles apply not only to warfare but also to business. Sun Tzu highlights the importance of being flexible and adaptable, urging leaders to respond effectively to changing circumstances. 

He discusses various aspects of strategy, like:

  • Forming alliances
  • Using hidden strengths
  • Exploiting competitors’ weaknesses

Ultimately, Sun Tzu’s teachings provide a holistic approach to achieving success by carefully planning actions, anticipating challenges, and making intelligent moves to gain an advantage.

The following article illustrates a detailed summary of The Art Of War By Sun Tzu and uses those principles in business.

The Successful business tactics In Sun Tzu’s Principles Of “The Art Of War”:

Sun Tzu’s Principles in “The Art of War” offers Successful business tactics for small business owners. One crucial lesson is the importance of strategic thinking and planning. 

By studying Sun Tzu’s teachings, business leaders can learn to develop their business skills, set clear objectives, and allocate resources effectively. 

“All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” Sun Tzu

Another lesson lies in understanding the competition. Sun Tzu emphasizes the need to assess rivals, anticipate their moves, and capitalize on their weaknesses in The Art Of War

By learning these tactics and conducting thorough competitor analysis, business owners can identify unique market opportunities and position their businesses for success. 

Finally, the book underscores the significance of adaptability and flexibility. In rapidly evolving business trends, adjusting strategies, embracing change, and seizing emerging opportunities is essential. 

“He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.” Sun Tzu

Best Business Strategies from “The Art of War”:

Sun Tzu’s teachings in The Art Of War provide valuable guidance for achieving success in different situations. One of the best business strategies mentioned in the book is: 

“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”Sun Tzu

This knowledge allows you to develop strategies that exploit competitors’ vulnerabilities while leveraging your strengths, giving you an advantage in the market.

Another valuable aspect of Sun Tzu’s teachings is self-awareness and self-knowledge. As illustrated by the author:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. You will succumb in every battle if you know neither the enemy nor yourself.”Sun Tzu

These lines also illustrate the fact that great Leaders possess the ability to achieve their goals. Instead of relying on external forces, they realize their potential. 

Sun Tzu teaches us that it’s crucial to understand our competitors in business, just like how we need to conduct thorough research and analysis of the market and our rivals. 

Conducting thorough research and analysis means gathering information about their products, services, target audience, pricing, marketing tactics, and competitive advantages. 

The Art of Strategy in Modern Business

Furthermore, researching competitors involves analyzing their pricing strategies to identify their position in the market and how their pricing compares to our offerings. 

It also involves investigating their marketing tactics, such as advertising campaigns, social media presence, and promotional activities, to gain insights into their branding and communication strategies.

This knowledge helps us identify their strengths and weaknesses, allowing us to create strategies that exploit their vulnerabilities and make the most of our strengths.

Sun Tzu’s Tactics in Effective Decision-Making:

Sun Tzu’s teachings in decision-making help us avoid impulsive choices driven by emotions or short-term thinking. Instead, we take a more strategic and calculated approach, reducing the likelihood of making hasty or ill-informed decisions

By making well-considered choices, we increase the probability of achieving our desired results and maintaining a competitive advantage in the long run. Sun Tzu emphasizes the importance of decision-making with these lines:

“The quality of the decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim. Therefore, the good fighter will be terrible in his onset and prompt in his decision.”Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu’s teachings highlight the power and effectiveness of indirect tactics in decision-making. 

They suggest that when applied efficiently, indirect tactics are limitless and ever-renewing, much like the natural elements of Heaven and Earth, the flow of rivers and streams, and the cyclical patterns of the sun, moon, and seasons.

The author illustrates this concept with this beautiful and miraculous analogy from nature:

“There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.

There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever be seen.

There are not more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.

In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack—the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.”Sun Tzu

In the context of decision-making, these lines emphasize the value of adopting creative and alternative approaches to problem-solving. Instead of relying solely on direct methods, considering indirect tactics can offer new possibilities and solutions.

Indirect tactics in decision-making involve thinking outside the box, exploring unconventional strategies, and approaching challenges from different angles.

By embracing direct and indirect tactics, decision-makers can tap into a wellspring of possibilities and solutions, giving rise to endless possibilities. 

They allow adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to navigate complex situations more effectively. It also helps to overcome obstacles, capitalize on opportunities, and stay one step ahead of the competition.

In essence, Sun Tzu’s teachings encourage decision-makers to embrace the inexhaustible and ever-renewing nature of the combination of direct and indirect tactics. 

By incorporating them into the decision-making process, individuals and organizations can open new avenues for success and achieve desired outcomes with greater effectiveness and creativity.

The Best Art of War Lesson for Every Business:

“The Art of War” also offers several valuable leadership development lessons. Through these best lessons, business entrepreneurs can enhance their leadership capabilities and drive their companies toward the heights of unparallel success.

“The skillful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand.”Sun Tzu

This quote underscores the importance of effective leadership that unifies and guides the team toward a common purpose, just as a skillful general leads a single person with care and direction. 

“The Art of War” emphasizes building strong relationships and fostering a sense of loyalty and commitment among team members. 

It suggests that when leaders treat their employees with care, respect, and genuine concern, they will gain unwavering support and dedication. 

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”Sun Tzu

Click here to learn more about the Leadership Principles for Small Business Entrepreneurs on our website.

Deception in Business from The Art of War:

Deception in business, drawn from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” involves strategically concealing intentions, misleading competitors, and manipulating perceptions to gain a competitive edge. 

Similar to military tactics, this concept encompasses using misinformation, feints, and surprise to create advantageous situations, outmaneuver rivals, and secure business success through a shrewd balance of calculated actions and misdirection.

“By altering his arrangements and changing his plans, he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes, he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose.” Sun Tzu

Let’s understand this deception in business using a real-world scenario

Case Study:

Imagine you run a small coffee shop, and a new competitor opens nearby, offering similar products at lower prices. Taking a page from “The Art of War,” you decide to use deception. 

You start spreading rumors about a secret ingredient in your coffee that’s supposed to have unique health benefits. While there’s no such ingredient, the rumor creates intrigue and curiosity among customers.

To enhance the illusion, you design special packaging with mystical symbols and promote it as a limited-time “Wellness Blend.” Meanwhile, you subtly encourage word-of-mouth discussions about the supposed health advantages. 

As a result, customers become intrigued by the mystery. They are willing to pay a premium for your coffee, even though the product hasn’t changed. In this scenario, you’ve used deception by creating a false narrative to differentiate your coffee shop from the competitor. 

By strategically misleading customers and manipulating their perception, you’ve managed to maintain a competitive advantage and attract a loyal following, all while adapting the principles of “The Art of War” to the business world.

Successful Businesses that Have Applied Sun Tzu’s Art Of War Tactics:

These are just a few examples of how successful businesses have applied Sun Tzu’s principles in their strategies

It’s important to note that while these businesses have drawn inspiration from Sun Tzu, their success is also attributed to various factors, including leadership, market conditions, and industry-specific dynamics.

Apple Inc.: 

Apple is known for its innovative products and marketing strategies. 

One principle of Sun Tzu’s teachings is to know your enemy, which Apple has applied by closely monitoring its competitors and anticipating market trends. 

Apple’s focus on secrecy and surprise product launches aligns with Sun Tzu’s emphasis on deception and unpredictability as effective tactics.


Amazon has excelled in the e-commerce industry by applying Sun Tzu’s principles of knowing yourself and your competition. 

Learn how Sun Tzu principles can be applied to succeed on Amazon.

They continuously gather data and analyze customer behavior to personalize their offerings.

Additionally, their emphasis on logistics and supply chain management reflects the principle of maneuvering efficiently, allowing them to deliver products quickly and maintain a competitive advantage.


Netflix disrupted the traditional entertainment industry by applying Sun Tzu’s teachings of understanding the terrain and adapting to change. 

They recognized the shift towards online streaming and capitalized on it, investing heavily in original content production and leveraging data analytics to personalize recommendations. 

This strategy allowed Netflix to dominate the market and outmaneuver traditional media companies.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has embraced Sun Tzu’s principles of effective resource allocation and minimizing risks. 

Their strategy of focusing on a single aircraft type, operating point-to-point routes, and maintaining high aircraft utilization has helped them optimize resources and reduce costs. 

Their emphasis on quick turnarounds and streamlined operations has allowed them to compete successfully in a challenging industry.

Win Without Fighting As Per Sun Tzu:

Winning without fighting, as advocated by Sun Tzu’s principles from “The Art of War,” involves:

  • Victory through smart strategies.
  • Knowing your opponent’s weaknesses.
  • Taking advantage of opportunities, all without needing to fight directly. 

“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”Sun Tzu

This approach focuses on psychological tactics, careful planning, and using your strengths to gain an advantage. 

It shows that real success comes from physical strength and being smarter and more strategic than your competition.


Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ isn’t just about battles – its ancient wisdom can guide modern businesses to success

By learning from this timeless text, entrepreneurs and leaders can develop intelligent strategies to conquer challenges, work as a team, adapt to changes, and create effective business tactics that lead to victory.

What do You think about using old wisdom from “The Art of War” for modern business? We’d love to hear your insights!

How LEAD Diligently Can Help You

Lead Diligently offers expert-led leadership development programs to help you build business executive skills & advance profitable enterprises.

We are on a mission to help our clients gain the clarity they need to wholly pursue their God-given purpose and grow profitable enterprises.


 Was Sun Tzu a real person?

Sun Tzu was an actual historical figure, an ancient Chinese military strategist and philosopher.

What is the main idea of the art of war?

The main idea of “The Art of War” is to achieve success through strategic thinking, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, adapting to changing circumstances, and using psychological tactics.

What does the art of war mean?

“The Art of War” is an ancient Chinese text that offers insights into military strategy and tactics applicable to various aspects of life, including business and leadership.

Why are business Tactics important?

Business tactics are essential as they guide how a company operates, competes, and responds to challenges, impacting its growth, profitability, and overall success.

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