“Business is War.” This statement hung in a place of prominence slightly above eye level at my first desk as a young gun Stock Broker for Advest, Inc. on the 11th floor of the SIS Bank Headquarters on 1441 Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. It had the backdrop of a photo taken of the earth from the moon with a blue matting and black frame incased in glass. For a young guy, ripe out of college, full of himself and idealistic dreams of grandeur … it represented both my place, and space, on the planet earth. Yes, I had effectively made it through the glass door and had earned a chair with a phone facing a wall in a prominent Retail Investment House with zero experience and without a Book of Existing Clients – that would have generated immediate income, and ultimately validated my existence for this prominent, stodgy and old investment firm. I was handed the Yellow Pages by my boss and Branch Manager on the first day after being awarded this desk and told to start with Accountants. Thus, the reality of my existence, and survival, settled in very quickly: Finance doesn’t have a face, could care less what you did in college, and you can only make educated guesses as to which direction the world markets will go in. Thus, in a pragmatic and very real sense for me at this juncture of my life’s journey, Business was War …
Fast Forward to the Spring of 2016, and to where I am now leading you. My point of reference back to my first day on the job in 1986 is that business today, in thisMillennial Age, has become the Digital Equivalent of a Headquarters Tent to an American Civil War (1861-1865) General. If successful in your job, you arealways in a transitory mode, both mentally, and physically. You never can truly afford to shut down, or tune out. You are competing every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, week, month and year. This being asubtle reality in a globally competitive and driven free market. You can choose to acknowledge this fact in your own personal business world, or not.
To this point, effective and timely communication with your Army or fellowCorporate Soldiers around, and most especially above you, is and forever will be, essential to the successful completion of your assigned TASK. That this ismuch easier said than done – when cannon balls start raining on your head – in the midst of your average work day – goes without saying. Speed and Clarity of Electronic Message – today – have become the equivalent to blood at the Red Cross.
Please hold that thought, and now turn your focus to the steel eyed gentleman pictured above in black and white. His name was General Ambrose Powel Hill, who commanded the 2nd Corps of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. His “Light Division” was the largest and became the most famous in all the Confederate armies during the American Civil War. He possessed what a fellow soldier called “an unquenchable thirst for battle.” He was known for wearing a bright red calico shirt for his troops to see clearly when he was leading them in battle on horseback. Amidst the smoke, noise and chaos – he wanted his men to always be able to distinguish his presence. This was his personal signature. This was his own personal emoticon in an age where symbolism and courage were both quintessential traits in good military leadership. Sadly, A.P. Hill was shot dead from his saddle (one week before the war ended) demanding the surrender of a Union infantryman pointing a 50 Caliber rifle at him from point blank range. General James A. Walker delivered the eulogy at his funeral. One sentence taken from this summarized it all: “Wherever the headquarters flag of A.P. Hill floated, whether at the head of a regiment, a brigade, a division, or a corps, in camp or on the battlefield, it floated with a pace and a confidence born of skill, ability and courage, which infused its confidence and courage into the hearts of all who followed it.”
To conclude, yes, business is very similar to warfare – if – you play it to win. You may not meet the dramatic end of our Confederate General above – but – mistakes in the Digital Age are forever. Yes, forever. Most especially, if they are made in an official business correspondence in writing. Yes, emails have now replaced battle plans, or short singular verbal directives, in our day to day pursuit of happiness in a free market dominated global economy.Messaging via Text or Email must be succinct and to the point. Fast fact pointed directives – that leave no questions on motive or the objective – related to the person sending it. Emoticons – have replaced Charts and Graphs in Fast Edited Messaging – so start using them! They effectively communicate the – emotion – related to the topic and actually interject a little light hearted humor. Finally, the Napoleons at the top simply do not have time to contemplate Cause & Effect from each and every one of their Field Generals. The technological noise and smoke surrounding them simply drowns it all out and doesn’t permit the detailed and word heavy messages to even get through. Knowing this, an efficient and reliable ‘Field General’ should always – know his or her audience. Focus on their personal preference for Fast Messaging, and simply adhere to it. Less is More– if you use the right words, and emoticons. : )