“Everyone knows my tactics, but no one knows my strategy,” attributed to Sun Tzu in The Art of War*

This got me thinking how many business leaders in the third-party logistics industry (myself included) spend too much time focused on the business tactics of our competition.

Then we try to copy those tactics in our own company, hoping against all evidence otherwise, that they’ll make us wildly successful.

We try to create high pressure/high volume sales teams where we’ve never had them because that seemed to work for (insert competitor’s name here).

We want to have the most intensive website, with videos, flashing graphics and all, because (insert competitor’s name here) has one and they’ve grown more than 50% each year for the last three years.

We want to copy the most sophisticated incentive based compensation system used by (insert competitor’s name here) in the hopes that it’ll make star performers out of our average employees.

But copying tactics used by the competition will not make your business successful. Your business will be successful when you have a clear mission, a well thought-out strategy, and then using the tactics that support your strategy and, most especially, have meaning for your customers.

Your Mission is a statement of purpose, what you are in business to accomplish. Your reason to exist at all.

Your Strategy is about the long term direction of the company. It’s about the resources you’ll have, the markets you’ll serve, your competitive advantage, and the expectations of your customers.

Your Tactics are how you do what you do. In the longer term it is how your processes and technology are deployed. On a daily basis it’s about everything from how you open the office in the morning and answer the phones to how you qualify carriers and collect your money. Every one of your tactics should make it easier for your customers to do business with you, and if they don’t you must change them as soon as possible.

Whether you’re starting a new business or your existing business needs a change, start with a clear Mission. Take the time to create, and stick with, a well-reasoned Strategy, and then create your own identity in the marketplace with the Tactics that flow from this process.

* The more accepted translation of this quotation is “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, The Art of War.

You can raise your business game today. Your Mission and Strategy are unique to your company, but the specific tactics you use are pretty common.