Why Running a Successful Business Calls for Intellectual Jujitsu

April 17, 2023
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Insights for running a successful business from Denver J Stutler, P.E., business founder, CEO, former Chief of Staff to Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

You’ve heard about jujitsu, a style of Japanese martial arts and a system of close combat that can be used in a defensive or offensive manner.

But what does jujitsu have to do with running a successful business? 

The Process of Building a Successful Business

Real progress in any business starts with a plan. As time goes by, the objectives of the plan don’t change, but the leadership and team deploying the plan may have to change its strategy and/or its tactics. I call that process of discovery and engagement: “Intellectual Jujitsu.

I heard a U.S. Army General speak one time, and he said that in combat (or in business) he enters every situation with a plan. However, when the plan meets the terrain, the terrain always wins.

Recognizing this concept has served our companies well over the years.

The Function of Intellectual Jujitsu

Intellectual jujitsu is what new products require. It is “what they do.”

Intellectual jujitsu was our approach for fighting to bring our submergent cleaning equipment into the marketplace, and it’s what we are now doing with our SediVision technology.

The key to intellectual jujitsu is listening. You must be still in martial arts in order to make the correct response to your opponent’s move. Otherwise, you will react rather than respond. You will end up out of control.

If you truly listen, what you hear (plus the valuable information gleaned by what you don’t hear) will lead you to understand what your customers or team members are saying. What you hear will equip you to develop alternative approaches to the situation at hand—it will position you to adapt to the changing terrain.

When starting a business, you, as part of the leadership team, are trying to figure out what the customer is looking for, how your product solves their problem, and what they are willing to pay for your product or services. Once you define those basic elements, you then begin dealing with more unique situations, such as when a sales associate asks you for guidance on how to solve a particular problem or better serve a client’s need.

two male karatekas in white kimono combat 2022 02 06 05 36 10 utc

If you truly listen, what you hear (and what you don’t hear) will lead you to understand what your customers or team members are saying.

At a certain point in advancing each of your products or services, your intellectual jujitsu will move away from being organizational and process-oriented and becomes more project specific.

Running a Successful Business. Adapting to the Terrain.

In business, intellectual jujitsu reflects our problem-solving nature.

Problem solving can be big, or it can be little. When you first start a business, you are dealing with the big issues, such as how much your customers will pay for your services.

As time goes by, be it six months or six years, the function of your intellectual jujitsu may shift to questions such as how to get your customers to buy more or pay more. The problems may change. But sound thinking is the basis of sound company decision-making, whether the problems are big or small. 

Have a plan. Listen. Employ intellectual jujitsu. And remember that sound thinking is at the heart of sound company decision making and integral for running a successful business.

I want my managers to feel empowered as sound and strategic decision makers.

Author Bio Notes


Denver J. Stutler, P.E.
Denver J. Stutler, P.E.

Denver J. Stutler, Jr., PE, is the co-inventor of SediVision® and CEO of SediVision® and US Submergent Technologies. He holds an MS in Civil Engineering and was principal with Camp Dresser and McKee, Inc. (CDM Smith). In 1999, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). He served as Chief of Staff to Governor Jeb Bush from 2003 to 2005, and in 2005 was appointed Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

In 2011, Denver cofounded US Submergent Technologies. In 2018, he began developing SediVision® to deliver transformational technology for the wastewater industry. In 2021, SediVision® was launched to provide complete visibility in full wastewater tanks.

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