The Art of War: Part 2

BON Blog - The Art of War: Part 2

Some time ago, I was directed by a business coach to the collection of Sun Tzu’s strategic advice - The Art of War. I remember taking cognisance of the lessons outlined by the great Chinese military general and as often as I could, I drew on the 33 nuggets. Looking back, the advice is sound. In fact, a refresher stroll through my copy of this classic has affirmed a few very important strategies for me:

  • Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.
  • He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  • He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.

Towards the middle of 2017, I ‘checked out’ (pardon the hotel pun) from shouting from the rooftops. I learnt not to crow too loudly. I decided that we needed to ‘sing when we are truly winning’ and then to retreat and prepare ourselves. Once again, I turned to Sun Tzu’s philosophies. It’s not always an easy thing to adhere to, that waiting game – discipline for someone like me can be a stretch. But fortunately, we shifted into the preparing phase. We knuckled down as we quietly yet aggressively worked diligently at our fundamental goals: growing our company through people; expanding our loyalty program; refining our systems, processes and blueprints; and very importantly, sorting our financial affairs. We then focussed on sowing the necessary seeds to plant for our growth.

One of the toughest things for any company to do is to grow, but without growth, you are ‘dead in the water’ so to speak. This may seem pretty obvious, but growth nowadays means so many different things to me. We believe at BON that the growth we have achieved is not only illustrated by the number of properties in our portfolio, but through countless lessons learnt: we have grown in many other and arguably more important ways than numerical hotels in a group.

I am fulfilled by how much we have learnt in recent years leading to immense ‘growth’ as executives: how many mistakes taught us significant lessons; how we resolved our setbacks. That’s what I call growth! Here’s our growth measure: Have we grown our skills and our proficiencies? Have we become better hotel operators? Are we making mistakes and not repeating them. Are we becoming respectable leaders? Are we stabilising our finances? Have we turned difficult situations into positive ones? Generally, the answers are – yes – and, wow, that’s growth. Here’s another growth measure: Are BON guests enjoying a better experience at our hotels than they did three years ago? In most cases - yes! So that’s growth.

Most importantly, clichéd as it may be, truly the biggest battle has been this: Are we happier people? Are we happy executives finding our groove? Are we in a happier place of work? Can I honestly say I am a happier person than I was before…the answer is a resounding YES.

Is that not the most important battle to win?


View previous Blog Post: The Art of War


Guy Stehlik, CEO of BON Hotels
Chief Executive Officer

Having grown up in the corridors and reception areas of Cape Town hotels, Guy Stehlik is no stranger to the hospitality industry.


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