Success Strategy: The Art of Reading for Success – Part II

I have maintained that the Art of Reading is one of the most important tools that you have in your arsenal for success.  By reading books with information that you can utilize in your business and your everyday life you will be leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.

One of the best books for contractors is “The Art of War”.  Most people give me a condescending smile when I say this but I maintain that any type of competition is similar to war.  Tactics and strategies are used and knowing your opponent and their strengths and weaknesses can gain you an edge that can help you win.

The “Art of War” was originally written by a man known as Sun Tzu and the text was inscribed on bamboo strips before 500 B.C.   The original document has been interpreted by many people but the basic principles remain as valid today as when they were originally written.

Sun Tzu was a master and was recognized as one of the greatest leaders of his time.

Our Wiley Sage is going to relate a story about being successful in obtaining a bid project and how the principles of the “Art of War” applied to his success.


The Art of War Applied to A Successful Winning Bid For A Construction Project.

Lessons from “Sun Tzu for Success – How to Use The Art of War to Master Challenges and Accomplish the Important Goals in Your Life.”

By Gerald Michaelson

Ahh – Weed hopper;

You are back!  I hope you are ready for the second lesson relating to reading and how it can help in being successful in construction bid competition.

The project we are going to discuss was in Northern Arizona.  The project was for the construction of a Day Care Center in an isolated community located approximately sixty (60) miles from a town with a population of approximately 20,00 people.

The project bid was close to One Million ($1,000,000.00 and no/100) Dollars and no/100.  The project appeared to be a good project in spite of the site location.

The bid had a mandatory pre-bid meeting approximately two (2) weeks before the bid opening.  This meant that only those general contracting companies that attended the pre-bid meeting could submit a bid proposal for the project.

We sent one of our field representatives to the pre-bid meeting to make sure that our company was shown as being compliant with the mandatory attendance.   There were approximately ten (10) contractors in attendance so that was our competition.  A sign in sheet was made available to everybody at the end of the meeting.

There were several things that fell into place in order for us to implement the principles of the Art of War.

Art of War Principle – Know The Battleground:

Our company had successfully completed several projects in the general vicinity of the project site and we were familiar with the different construction companies and suppliers in the area.

The unemployment in the area was approximately twenty (20) percent mainly due the isolation.  Since we had worked in the general area we knew who the good workers were and which workers we could depend upon.  Our usual practice was to send a lead man for each trade we would perform in-house and then build a local crew around him.  This eliminated the cost for per-diem and travel expenses.

Most of our competitors sent their crews into the area and paid all their travel expenses.

Art of War Principle – Know Your Opponent:

Since the project was a mandatory attendance and we had a copy of the attendance sheet; we knew who our competitors were.

Utilizing this information along with some creative snooping we were able to determine who the serious competitors were.

By doing our research and snooping we found how hungry our competitors were.  If they had a heavy workload we knew that our opponents would not be as competitive as a company that hardly had any work.

I could go on about knowing your opponent but you should get the concept!

Art of War Principle – Know Yourself:

Make a serious assessment of your own capabilities and your present workload.

We had a project that was nearing completion and the timing was such that our workforce could immediately move to this new project if we were the successful bidder!  This meant that we could be extra competitive!

 Success Tactic from Sun Tzu:

“Know the enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat.

If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself your are sure to be defeated in every battle!”

My field representative told me that the Architect and Contracting Officer discussed the project with the contractors and stressed the urgency to get the project completed as soon as possible.

The project had a large kitchen area with a set of plans that were provided by a kitchen equipment company.  At the end of the meeting they all emphasized that everybody needed to make sure they contacted the kitchen equipment provider to get a price.  Each bidder was to include a price for the equipment.

Upon review the project plans and specifications I noticed that there were no specifications for the kitchen equipment.  In fact; the original plans and specifications showed nothing about any kitchen equipment.  Nowhere in the bid documents was the kitchen equipment even mentioned!

I could have called attention to this fact and asked for clarification but I decided to proceed using

       Wiley Sage’s rule Number 1 for Bidding a Construction Project:


My reasoning was that I knew that time was of the essence and the owner wanted the project to be completed as soon as possible.  If we bid the project per plans and specifications we had nothing to lose and everything to gain!

The Art of War Principle – Take Advantage of Opportunities:

Long story made short; we were the low bidder for the project because everybody else had included a price for the equipment.

Later the Contracting Officer called me and said that he was going to throw our bid out because we had not included the kitchen equipment.  I politely said that I would protest his decision and would ask for a hearing with the Tribal Council to discuss his decision.

I also told him he should consult with their attorney because I had provided our bid pursuant to the official bid documents.  This was a gamble but since time was of the essence I felt it was more of a calculated risk!

I later received a signed contract and as soon as we provided the necessary documents we were issued the notice to proceed.  The project was a huge success for everybody!

Reviewing the situation our success was due to reading the documents and applying the Art of War to the project bidding process.

There are several lessons to be learned and most are self evident but you need to proceed according to the written documents not verbal directions.

That’s why I believe reading is important to your success.



If you have not read “Sun Tzu For Success – How to Use The Art of War to Master Challenges and Accomplish the Important Goals In You Life”  by Gerald Michaelson you should seriously consider adding this book to your success library!

The book includes:

Book One – The Complete Translation of “The Art of War”

Book Two:  The Art of Success

Section One:  Personal Characteristics for Success.

Section Two: Strategies for Success

Section Three: Tactics for Success

Section Four:  Competitive Success

Section Five:  Examples of Success

If you are serious about being successful in the business of construction and want to get the insight of how The Art of War is similar to The Art of Bidding in Construction; you should read this book!

You can purchase the book by clicking on the image!

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