It’s an age-old adage: never fight with someone bigger than you or sue someone richer than you. It’s a simple piece of advice, yet one that many hard-nosed entrepreneurs and business owners often overlook in their relentless pursuit of success. It is, perhaps, for this very reason that this wisdom is usually hard-won. When your ambition is outsize, the reality of a much larger, richer opponent may not deter you initially. However, it’s in these scenarios that a word of caution from a non-executive often becomes invaluable.
Non-executives, with their wealth of experience, typically have seen the dangers and potential pitfalls of taking on a larger, more affluent adversary. They often bring a different perspective to the table, viewing issues from angles that may not be immediately obvious to the executives who are knee-deep in the fray. This is not to say that non-executives are always right, but rather to highlight their unique vantage point – one grounded in wisdom, experience, and sometimes the bitter taste of failure.
The idea behind the advice of not fighting someone bigger or suing someone richer is deeply rooted in pragmatism. Large opponents in business have greater resources to outlast you in a contest of endurance, whether that be a legal battle, a price war, or a market share race. The same principle applies to litigating against someone wealthier. The financial stamina required in a drawn-out court case can bleed a smaller company dry, while the wealthier opponent continues on, largely unaffected.
Yet, this advice is not a prescription for timidity in the face of formidable opposition. Instead, it is a call for strategic wisdom and calculated risk-taking. Non-executives, having often navigated these treacherous waters themselves, can provide a nuanced approach to tackling big challenges. They can guide executives to outmaneuver rather than overpower, to innovate rather than imitate, and to negotiate rather than litigate.
There’s an intrinsic value in these nuggets of wisdom that can prove vital in deciding the future course of a company. It’s crucial to understand that non-executives don’t advocate for playing small. Rather, they push for playing smart. Their advice can help you strike the right balance between ambition and prudence, thereby avoiding costly confrontations that may threaten the company’s survival.
Embracing this counsel can mean the difference between a reckless gamble and a shrewd business decision. It’s an important reminder that the objective of business is not to triumph in every single battle, but to ultimately win the war – the war of sustainable success and continued growth.
In the end, the greatest business lessons are often those that are hard-won, lessons that have been fought for and learned from the front lines of experience. They may be difficult to hear and sometimes even harder to implement, but they are invariably the most valuable. And so, the next time a non-executive offers the counsel of not taking on someone larger or suing someone richer, it would be wise to listen and reflect, for it is in such wisdom that the greatest success stories are often found.