Drucker never served in the military, however, when the war came he had a doctorate, so he volunteered for civilian service. He was assigned and he eventually familiarized himself with the military and how it worked, including its rules, systems, and unique aspects. This included organization and management which he then incorporated into his practice and recommended for civil adoption.
Generals rarely get rich
Right away he saw that a general who could command thousands of people and be responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment was making less than $50,000 a year. At the time, it was less than five times the salary of an average soldier who was not an officer.
Later, he discovered that many CEOs of companies received more than 58 times the salary of their average employees. Drucker said not only was it unfair, but it was also poor management and affected productivity.
In 2004 he expressed his admiration for the military in a testimonial for the book to be, to know, to do, co-written by her friend Frances Hesselbein who had served as CEO of Girls Scouts of the USA and General Eric K. Shinseki who had served as Chief of Staff of the US Army. Drucker wrote:
“The military trains and develops more leaders than all other institutions combined and with a lower casualty rate. to be, to know, to do shows how it’s done and how it can be adapted by non-military businesses, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and churches.
The first of many lessons Drucker learned from the military
I heard many lessons he learned from the military when I was his student. The first concerned his government orders to report to a colonel who was to be his commanding officer. His assignment was as a management consultant; however, the ordinances did not explain what a management consultant was or what duties they were to perform.
Drucker himself did not know. The term wasn’t in any dictionary, management or book he consulted but the Colonel seemed kind enough and asked if he had any questions.
“Please, sir,” Drucker asked. “Can you tell me what the responsibilities of a management consultant are? »
The Colonel looked at him with a twinkle in his eye but did not answer Drucker’s question and only said, “Young man, don’t be impertinent. By this, Drucker told us that he knew the Colonel also did not know what the duties of a management consultant were. Drucker said, “His response allowed me to suggest something I wanted to do and where I could best contribute.”
Knowing yourself is more important than knowing your competitors
I had always thought competitive intelligence was important, but Drucker discovered that knowing yourself, your own abilities and limitations at any given time is even more so, and he wasn’t the first.
Former Chinese military genius Sun Tzu wrote, “If I know myself and my enemy, I need not fear defeat in 100 battles. If I only know myself, I’ll lose half of it. If I only know my opponent and not myself, I will lose everything.
Proven again in China during WWII
Claire Chennault, then a retired Army Air Corps captain, traveled to China as an advisor to General Chang Kai Shek, fighting the Japanese who had invaded the country. He was commissioned as a colonel in the Chinese Air Force and commanded the group of American volunteers sent to China and known as the “Flying Tigers” by President Roosevelt, to serve as part of the Army of the Chinese air before the United States entered the war.
Few of the 200 American volunteers had flown fighters before. They all held reserve commissions in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, and all were pilots. They had flown transports, bombers and observation planes, not fighters, which Chennault needed.
Chennault had helped convince President Roosevelt to give the Chinese 100 P-40E fighter jets. They were all that was available but were considered inferior to the Japanese fighters. Moreover, their Japanese opponents had years of combat experience while the American pilots had none.
Chennault knew they could be trained and was familiar with the P-40E. It wasn’t as nimble for traditional dogfighting as the Japanese aircraft, but it was heavier and faster and had much better armor.
He trained his pilots to take advantage of what the P-40Es had, not what they lacked. In their first combat, the Flying Tigers defended the important Chinese city of Kunming, which previously had no air defenses and which the Japanese had bombarded unopposed. The inexperienced pilots trained by Chennault shot down nine of the 10 attacking bombers.
Over the next six months, its inexperienced fighter pilots destroyed 296 enemy aircraft, while losing only 14 pilots in combat. No other fighter unit from any country in history has equaled this record.
How Corporal Joe Cossman overcame obstacles
Cossman had no college experience and had been a corporal in the combat engineers during World War II. After the war, he explains: “I bought an old typewriter and used my kitchen table as a desk every night after supper. Every night I read the newspaper, looking for rare commodities. Then I offered these products by mail to overseas prospects.
He worked for a year skipping meals and working part-time from his kitchen table. He says, “Then one day I saw a classified ad in the New York Times. It was for laundry soap, which was then in short supply. As I had done several times before, I replied to the advertisement, obtained samples and sent them to contacts abroad. This time I received an order with a letter of credit for 180,000 USD almost by return mail. »
The letter of credit stated that a New York bank would pay him $180,000 as soon as he presented bills of lading, which are the documents showing the product on a ship bound for the buyer. There was also a time limit, as bills of lading had to be presented to his bank within thirty days or the letter of credit would be worthless.
Cossman explained, “When I got to New York, I phoned the man who ran the ad. He didn’t own a single bar of soap! He had put the speculation ad in the newspaper and sent in some samples he had on hand.
At a local library, Cossman obtained the names, addresses, and phone numbers of every soap maker in the United States and locked himself in his hotel room the next day. There was a phone strike and it took fifteen minutes before he got an operator and after telling his story the operator promised to keep him on the line until he made his calls .
It took until the next day for him to find a company in Alabama that had the laundry soap he needed, but he had to ship it to New York. He started looking for someone who would lend him thirty trucks and drivers on credit to transport the soap and succeeded.
He returned to New York 24 hours before the letter of credit expired, but loading the soap onto a freighter in the port was going to take too long. The banks closed at two o’clock and he would not be able to present his bills of lading on board in time.
Cossman found the steamboat company president’s office near the docks and convinced his secretary to let him in to see him. After telling his story to the president, he looked him in the eye and said, “If you’ve come this far, you’re not going to lose the case now.
Within minutes, Cossman had his bills of lading and arrived at the bank within fifteen minutes of the President before closing time. The cashier gave him a check for US$180,000 and cash which helped him find a taxi.
Cossman went on to build a multi-million dollar company over the next few years. His company sold dozens of unusual products including 1.8 million anthills, a children’s toy still sold today. Like Drucker, he adapted military lessons to civilian life. Veteran or not, you can also apply many lessons learned from those in uniform.
Let us know of any other business lessons that can be learned from those in uniform in the comments below.