The Sun Zi Art of War is a Chinese military treatise that was most likely written by Sun Tzu in the Spring and Autumn period, which is roughly the same period as Confucius. Some scholars believe it was written during the later Warring States period. Sun Zi was introduced to the emperor of Wu Kingdom by Wu Zi Xu to explain his art of war theories. The emperor eventually agreed to employ him as his General after he successfully demonstrated the military strategies with the emperor’s royal concubines at the emperor’s request.
The Sun Zi Art of War is the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time, and still one of the basic strategies used in business today. Sun Tzu suggested the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment. He thought that strategy was not planning but it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning will only work in the controlled environment. In changing environment, a competitive plan or creating an unexpected situation is required.
Sun Tzu said that the conduct of war is a matter of vital importance to the nation. It also determines the survival or death of the country. It is a matter of life and death, a road to safety or to ruin. Therefore, it is a subject that must be studied and examined thoroughly. We must analyze and study the five factors carefully. These five factors are moral influence, the weather, terrain, generalship, and doctrine and law. We will relate Sun Zi Art of War to the business strategies of Sushi King Malaysia.
Sushi King is the largest Japanese Kaiten Restaurant Chain in Malaysia. It was first opened in 1995 with the unique ‘Kaiten Sushi’ or ‘Revolving Sushi’ with quick service restaurant concept. As of today, Sushi King has over 65 restaurants in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia and is still expanding from a single outlet in Kuala Lumpur. The vision of Sushi King is to be the best Sushi and Japanese eatery in Malaysia while the mission is to serve high quality Sushi and other Japanese dishes with friendly and prompt service at affordable prices. The key behind the successful of Sushi King is the novelty, affordability and efficiency of Sushi King’s restaurants. These three keys have proved to be the distinctive advantage of Sushi King. Sushi King offered quick and fresh food to suit today’s fast pace of life. The specially equipped sushi-making machines and conveyor system provide quality sushi products in a hygienic environment.
Besides that, the unique experience of selecting sushi dishes on the revolving conveyor belt has attracted a lot of customers. In addition, Sushi King has their own advantages to compete with every fast food restaurant around the world such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Mc Donald. Sushi King carry out promotion to attract customers for example there is a RM2 Bonanza Promotion at Sushi King from 4/13/2009 till 4/23/2009. Other than that, Salmon Festival is also one of the main attractive strategies proposed by Sushi King. In 10 Jul 2010, customers are able to enjoy special dinner promotions at RM5 per meal between 7pm and 9pm. Another promotion done by Sushi King is the “Big Bowl” promotion where their customers do not need to pay for the dishes if they are able to finish it within ten minutes.
Today, Sushi King has expanded their expertise to include specialized catering services for a variety of events and functions. At Sushi King, people are their capital and their philosophy is to create a learning environment for their people to learn and improve their skills and knowledge to attain career success which are both satisfying and dynamic. As they continue to grow, they set their objectives to further regional and eventually international expansion.
Waging war is about how are the operational considerations and the support, deployment and sustainability of an organization/war. It is the study of planning and arranging of available resources in a company. Sun zi said: in the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armour, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men. Thus, some important resources such as food, weapons and equipment must be planned and arranged properly to be fully utilized so that expenses can be saved. In business activities, there are several cost effects for every business like scale/size of the team, distance, time take, and daily spending. (Waging War 2010)
Size of the team may influence the cost for business since if the scale of the organization is large, more expenses will be spent. If the time of the war be taken long term, country financial problem will be influenced as well since cost of the raw materials will be increased daily and tax will be increased either. When victory is long overdue, weapons will be blunt and morale of the troops will be affected. Same goes to business activities, if the product producing and introducing period take a long time to prepare or to enter the market, financial of the company will be affected. Besides, the company may face serious financial problem in that time. Moreover, distance far or near also influenced the cost effect since a nation maybe poor because it tries to transport all its provision over long distances. (Waging War 2010)
However, speed is also one of the important strategies in war/business. In war, it is better to go for swift victories rather than engage in prolonged military campaigns. In business activities, speed is one of the effective ways to reduce the operation cost of the company. For example, sushi king has introduced “revolving sushi” with quick service restaurant concept to suit the today’s fast pace of life. Besides, they offer a wide variety of sushi along with affordable prices to quickly gain the popularity to become a favourite among locals and foreigners alike. The organization productivity can be increased and their value in market can be improved as well by reducing the time for operation. It will be a factor of core competitive advantage for the organization. (Waging War 2010)
Sun zi said: He (the general) who is adept in warfare does not required additional conscription of soldiers nor multiple replenishment of food and supplies. In business activities, any activities which are not value added must be reduce or cut down. They just go for the activities which are beneficial to the organization and do the activities in right decision, right situation and will not repeat the mistake again. If the company want to exist in the market, the capital rolling must be very active and better can reach break even point within 2-3years. The financial rolling of the organization will be influenced if take longer time. (Waging War 2010)
The quality of the products also must be maintained to make sure the market value of the organization can be improved. Sun zi theory said that remove and replace the banner of the enemy with yours and use the captured chariots together with yours and treat them well could bring benefits to your company. This is what is meant by conquering the enemy and becoming stronger in the process. This is also called, using the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength. Most of the organization brought the products from different suppliers and it is always from combination of different suppliers. This is to combine different high quality resources to produce one value products that could build up the company own competitive advantage and create the market value. (Waging War 2010)
Flexibility in Sun zi’s theory must be applied in business world since the company must forecast the problem and prepare to make the changes in order to deal with the problems. Sun zi z said: military weapons and equipment should be obtained from the home country while food provisions should be obtained from the enemy. Organization has to clearly know about their own strength and core value in the market. They must clearly know about their weaknesses as well to predict what kinds of problem will them facing so that can solve it before it’s too late. Outsources is one of the strategy which can reduce core organization cost in overseas. They use the origin country labours to produce their products and also can increase the job opportunity in that country as well.
For the troops to plunder the resources of the enemy, they must be motivated by material rewards. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. For business application, organization must always have awards or rewards to employees who have high contribution to the organization based of their performance. Moreover, organization also has to always review their compensation system to fulfil job satisfaction. When employee‘s satisfaction increase, they loyalty towards the company will also increase, cost of materials will be reduced and the productivity of the company will be increases as well. (Waging War 2010)
In chapter two of Sun Zi’s teaching of waging war, it is said that “As a general rule, for a military campaign, one would need 1,000 speedy four-horse chariots, 1,000 heavy wagons, and 100,000 fully equipped and combat ready soldiers. The food supplies will have to be transported for 1,000 miles. There is a need to provide for expenses incurred at home and at the battlefront; for the entertaining of guests, visitors, advisors, emissaries, for procuring of materials and supplies such as glue and paint; and for maintaining the armament, chariots and troops. Expenses incurred will amount to 1,000 pieces of gold daily.” This refers to the efficiency of a company towards their goals with proper preparation against their competitors. Therefore with the 4 points applying to business from Sun Zi’s teaching is the size of team, the distance to war, the duration of war and the daily spending. (Waging War 2010)
To apply the 4 points towards business of Sushi King Company, the first point of size of team referring towards the expansion of Sushi King Company and the employees in each outlet. Today, there are 51 Sushi King Outlets in Malaysia with maximum people of 30 in each outlet including the managers and employees. The size of people in each outlet depends on the size of the outlet and the place of the outlet due to certain places such as towns which the outlet is strategic towards people will have more size of members in the outlet such as in one of the Sushi King outlet in Gurney Plaza, Penang which have 32 workers including managers and employees. (Location, 2010)
Secondly, the distance is applied to Sushi King as the distance and the strategic placing of the outlet is very strategic, as they outlets are placed in large malls such as in Penang, Gurney Plaza, Queensbay Mall, and also Prangin Mall where a lot of people actually roam those places. Sushi King also is placed usually far away from its competitors to avoid strong decision making to eat Japanese cuisines. (Location, 2010)
Thirdly, the duration of war applied into Sushi King is the promotion that Sushi King offers which one of the examples are the Salmon Fiesta which takes places from 1-30 November where 3 smoked salmons is only RM6 and 3 salmon nigiri is only RM5, the promotion is the attract customers to participate paying very low price for salmon dishes and also mutually benefits Sushi King by finishing the salmon stocks else the salmon would expire and becoming a waste of company cost. (Seasonal Specials, 2010)
Lastly is the daily spending, Sushi King’s daily spending is within a budget in all outlets so that the food stored is not into a waste and also to save cost so that the financial will not be affected.
For the strategies of value added firstly, “generals who do not thoroughly comprehend the inherent dangers of deploying troops are unlikely to understand the advantages of using troops.” To apply in business for Sushi King, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Fumiko Konishi, the founder has analyzed the weakness and disadvantages of the Sushi King Company and uses the strength of Sushi King Company to cover the disadvantages such as the disadvantages are that raw sushi has an expiry date which can’t stand for too long, this care spoils the food in just a few days, therefore to counter the disadvantage, he has made up his mind by putting up low prices for sushi such to RM2, RM3, RM4, RM5 and RM6 per plate of which is very affordable for dear customers, the results are very positive attracting customer attention eating quality food at low prices. ( The Opening of Sushi King In Sarawak 2010)
Moreover, the second strategy for value added is “the general who adept in warfare does not require additional conscription of soldier nor multi replenishments of food and supplies.” To apply to Sushi King Company, the founder at first when he launched Sushi King to compete with the competitors, he has the idea of coming up with a very creative way to serve his sushi dishes to his customers, such as a railway with sushi dishes around the seats of the customers which allow the customers to take the plate of sushi dish as the food is railed near their customer’s seats. By doing this, Sushi King has actually save cost used to hire employee to serve the food, saved time and energy used by employees to serve the customer, instead all Sushi King need is the material to make sushi dishes and a person to make them before putting on the railway to serve dear customers.(Our Story, 2010)
Thirdly, “Military weapons and equipments should be obtained from the home country while food and provisions should be obtained from the enemy.” The third strategy value added is about outsourcing the competition with competitors, in examples, Sushi King has promotion that outsource their competitors overriding the prices of their customers in great quantity such that the Sushi King promotion of Sushi King Salmon Fiesta which is happening from November 1 to 30 where Sushi King’s Salmon dishes are sold at very low prices, customers would enjoy high quality food at low prices which increases the company income and finish off the food stock before expiring.
This is one way of globalizing the company name where customers would prefer to eat cheaper, a more affordable high quality food especially in low income country such as Malaysia. Furthermore, the promotion Sushi King Bonanza allows their customers to pick any sushi dishes from the railway for only RM2, this way customers would be attracted by the price and outsource other sushi restaurants. (Seasonal Specials 2010)
6 Strategies to end the war quickly by commanding the resources of the enemy, instill the troops with hatred, motivating the troops with rewards, encouraging risk-taking, confuse the enemy and treat the prisoners-of-war well.
Commanding the resources of the enemy, Sushi King uses the advantage where the price of the competitors for sushi dishes are high, therefore Sushi King puts its prices lower to compete with the competitors, instead of high profits for the company, the company aims for more sales to enhance the name and reputation of Sushi King, as globalization, such as sushi dishes from Sushi King is from RM2 to RM6 which is cheapest among other Japanese cuisine restaurants, and to those especially in Malaysia, a low income country has preferred to eat healthy at low prices restaurants where the building of reputation increases as the people tend to prefer Sushi King instead of other Japanese cuisine restaurants. (Food Division, 2010)
Furthermore, in the 6 strategies to end the war quickly is to motivate the troops with rewards, where annually Sushi King would have their annual meeting to motivate and reward their employees with the best effort.
Moreover, Sushi King encourages risk-taking where they set prices so low that the profits are quite low with the promotions such as Sushi King Bonanza where all the sushi prices are at RM2 per plate, with this, Sushi King may lose a lot of profit but instead of losing profit, the sales cashing in and out are running to make business and expanding their reputation.
Besides that, Sushi King has a very high quality of food where eating sushi brings good health even shown in their tagline where “Healthy Good Taste” this becomes one of Sushi King’s strength to towards other restaurants outsourcing those such as Pizza Hut, McDonald, Kentucky’s Fried Chicken. (Home, 2010)
In terms of speed learnt from Sun Zi’s teaching in winning victories swiftly, is by launching promotion that benefits both the Sushi King company and the customers mutually, such as the “Take Away Sushi Combi Set” Where the promotion purposes is for customer to take away sushi dishes at affordable prices, as Sushi King is the first to implement the idea of take away sushi. ( Seasonal Sepcials, 2010)
In conclusion, the teachings of Sun Zi’s in the chapter Waging War, is extremely useful and is very applicable in the business world. This is so because looking into the success of Sushi King, all four points of Sun Zi’s theory of Waging War was successfully applied. One such example is the size of people in each outlet depends on the size of the outlet and the place of the outlet due to certain places such as towns which the outlet is strategic towards people will have more size of members in the outlet such as in one of the Sushi King outlet in Gurney Plaza, Penang which have 32 workers including managers and employees. To ensure the business is going to doing well and also it is able to compete with its competitors, Sushi King has to ensure the following points are well possessed by its leader, where by the leader must ensure that they are the people setting the culture or taking the front lead, so they will have the commanding front, as such that their competitors have to alter their strategy to match Sushi King, not the other way around. Secondly, Sushi King must instill its employees to have a sense of commitment towards their company.
By doing so, they are committed to the goals of the company and this will steer their company to greater heights. Next is, Sushi King should to reward their employees. This will make employees feel that their efforts are being recognized and they will be more than will be help the company to do better, in terms of sales and marketing. The employees, such as the marketing and product development department should be encouraged to take risk, as taking risks to develop and test their product in the market. This will not only gauge their quality of service, but also to understand better what kind of taste that customers are looking into.
Besides that, Sushi King should also try to confuse their competitors by coming out with the various marketing strategy and plans, instead of just sticking to one. By doing so, their competitors, such as Sakae Sushi will not be able to counter attack Sushi King’s strategy. Lastly, Sushi King should treat the people who have contributed to the company well. This is to avoid such employees to leave and be recruited by their competitors. If they are recruited by their competitors, Sushi King will have a hard time in planning for a new marketing strategy to carry themselves forward. If Sushi King can apply these 6 strategies effectively, they would be hard to topple by any of its competitors.
There are 4 elements in Sun Zi Art of War that they must adapt to when they are managing their company; they are cost, speed, quality and flexibility. Managing Cost, Quality, Speed, Flexibility and Information as an asset in the business industry today companies do not have the option of cutting corners when it comes to cost, quality, speed, flexibility and managing information as an asset. Businesses are born, growing or dieing off every day. If a company desires to grow it must ensure that all facets of its operations and processes updated, run efficiently and managed effectively.
We suggest that restructuring and re-engineering as the means of managing cost, quality, speed and flexibility. In order to maintain a financial balance between input and output of the organization, we know lower cost would help a lot in reducing the financial wastage. As for such purpose, there are needs to cut down on works and things that do not add value to the company to reduce the cost and resources being used. The managerial level should give the employees a very clear direction on how the company must cut down the cost. A random and constant meeting to inform and update the employees with the financial condition can give them a clear impression on how should the retrenchment be done. Cost for the customers on the other hand is a question to be concerned. With prices lower than their competitors, they can draw in more customers.
We suggest that Sushi King to research new products and services in the effort of enhancing the quality of the company when providing food and services to the customers. Taste and freshness of food is plays an important role in securing the quality of food. Instead of the same old stuffs that you can find in a Sushi King menu, constantly new combination of Japanese food can be introduce to the market to differentiate their quality of service from other competitors in the market. Sushi King should also improvise the technological advances as a means for increasing speed of product merchandise and services. Speed across the Sushi King outlets is of large importance to many customers, with a large portion of customers wanting to go in to the shop, to enjoy the sushi on conveyer belt.
Technology such as computerize ordering system can be introduced to give the customers speedy service. Speed in the organization itself, managerial levels should focus more on information transmission when making decision as strategies in food industry are constantly evolving. Sushi King should also concentrate on giving a vast range of merchandise and services in order to increase the flexibility. Constantly putting the sushi on the conveyer belt is a good way to sustain the flexibility of customer choosing the flavor they like and flexibility of chef on choosing what to put on the belt. This can increase satisfaction in both parties- job satisfaction for employees and customer satisfaction.
Other than the 4 elements mentioned, there are other suggestions based on the Sun Zi Art of War-chapter 2 Wading War. Sushi King has to know about their own strength and core value in the market, as well as analyzing the weaknesses or disadvantages of the company, in result, the company can always use their strength to cover the weaknesses and win in the business games. In that case, in a more practical manner, the management team of the company should always do market research in forms of survey, getting feedbacks from customers and implement new attraction to the customer and consumer. Include the employees in a brainstorming session to generate ideas about the ins and outs of the company is a good way to master the condition of the company about weaknesses and threats that they are facing.
Sushi King should always award or give rewards to the employees who have high contribution to the organization and based of performance. They also must review their compensation system to fulfill employees’ job satisfaction. When employees satisfaction increase, their loyalty also increase, so productivity will be increase and cost for material will be reduce. They may design a special employee award program where the employee with best performance per month will be rewarded.
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