Be Violent, not Cruel. A business lesson from the Army

Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua B. Duarte, left, and a South Korean marine cross a rope bridge obstacle during Korean Marine Exchange Program 17–14 in South Korea, Aug. 9, 2017. The program enables U.S. and South Korean marines to focus on exchanging tactics and procedures and increasing interoperability. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

I’ve been in business for seven years and was in the Army for 15. During my times as an infantry drill sergeant the #1 rule that you teach your soldiers in urban combat is something called ‘violence of action’. This rule also applies to success in business as well.

Urban combat training is one of the most brutal and dangerous types of combat training, but there are a few techniques that go beyond tactics that will not just help you survive, but thrive. One of them is ‘violence of action’ and this is how we describe it:

1) Be unseen and quick until you’re engaged.

Army: The best attack is the one you never see coming. Don’t give your position or assets away.

Business: You have other individuals and companies that are much bigger, experienced and have much deeper pockets. Don’t draw attention to yourself until you’re ready to start collecting paying customers.

2) Once engaged be loud, be scary, be big.

Army: The enemy has now been alerted to your presence. Make them think of recalculating their position because your presence is much larger that what first appeared.

Business: Once you have a product ready for market, don’t waste time trying to slowly build up momentum. Get it everywhere, all the time, right now. If you’re slower to market there are plenty of other people and companies that would love to make money with your idea by using their experience and deeper pockets.

3) Close the distance with your objective quickly.

Army: When you are forced into hand-to-hand combat, get to them as fast as possible, use that momentum and your strength to close the distance. This gives you control and focus.

Business: Focus on the near term goal/objective. This can be a sales goal, a specific number of new customers, products sold, or web traffic. Focus on the one goal today that will get you closer to where you need to be and do it now.

4) Dominate your objective quickly.

Army: Once you’ve closed the distance, dominate your enemy quickly. We can use our side-arms or rifles in hand-to-hand combat, because they work quickly.

Business: Your objective should be to be #1 in your market. If you’re small, you can still be at the top. When I started Grunt Style, being the #1 patriotic lifestyle brand in the world was a hard goal to fathom. But I started with being the #1 vendor at Ft. Benning, GA and after a few months, we then owned that title. We picked bigger targets, closed the distance and dominated them, one after another.

5) Secure the objective

Army: Don’t pay for ground twice. If you fought to gain ground, secure it so you don’t have to fight for it again.

Business: Once you become #1 in a market, don’t give up the ground when you move on to another marketplace or product. You worked hard to acquire a customer, don’t mess up the order and then have to apologize, give coupons and beg them to try you again. Deliver the first time and every time.

6) Move off of the objective quickly

Army: Once you’ve secure the area, move quickly to the next objective. Otherwise you become a very fast target. You were loud, big and scary, now the enemy knows they’ve been dominated. If the enemy has any friends, they know exactly where you are so you must continue the mission with the next objective.

Business: Once you’ve dominated a field, market, or product, move on to your next objective quickly. It’s very easy to become cocky and comfortable. It will make a great story for someone else when they dominate you. Stay humble, stay focused and move on to the next objective.

To be clear, it is in my experience in business that select others will try to throw arrows at your back and attack you, but this is not the norm. Though they try to offend and attack you, they are not your opponents. Do not let them make you lose focus. The time that you are distracted by them is more costly to you than whatever slurs or rumors they may be throwing around. Your only competition in business is yourself. You are a plant next to a river. The size of tree you become depends very little on the trees around it. Don’t worry about anyone else except for the nutrition and health of your business. Be faster, be better, be more financially strong.

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