Introduction:In Chapter 3 (Strategic Attacks) of Sun Zi’s The Art of War, Sun Zi shares his views on the best military tactics. For example, Sun Zi states that military forces are best maneuvered in a way that captures the enemy’s nation intact rather than destroying it. The highlight of the chapter lies with Sun Zi’s explanation that the most supreme strategy is to subdue the enemy without fighting by attacking the plans and strategies of the enemy. Sun Zi further elaborates that his principle for troop deployment is based on the comparison of the number of troops between his camp and his enemy’s camp. His rationale behind this is that a weaker and smaller force will always fall captive to a larger and stronger force. Sun Zi asserts that a nation’s state is dependant on the general, who acts like its guardian. The chapter ends as Sun Zi shares how he predicts victory based on the general’s attitude. One of the objectives of this study is to learn how to capitalize on the endless opportunities created by ever-changing market conditions by adapting to strategies and tactics to different situations. Additionally, this study is carried out to understand how businesses achieve commercial success by implementing Sun Zi’s strategic attacks from The Art of War. Another objective of this study is to analyse and evaluate the pros and cons of the business strategies carried out by a selected listed company.Case DevelopmentThe listed company we have chosen is Ulta Beauty, Inc.. Ulta is the largest beauty specialty chain retailer in the United States and is a one-stop destination for cosmetics, fragrance, skin and hair care products as well as salon services. The Illinois based company opened its first store in 1990 and now the company operates 1,058 retail stores throughout the United States and Columbia (Liu, 2017). The company also distributes its inventory of more than 20,000 products from approximately 500 beauty brands online via its website www.ulta.com. In addition to the many brands carried by Ulta, the beauty powerhouse also has its own privately labelled beauty products (Ulta Beauty, Inc, n.d.). 3.9 The next best strategy is to attack his relationships and alliances with other nations.This concept can be interpreted such that when it is not viable to attack the enemy’s plans, the next best tactic is to create cleavages in the diplomatic relationships between the enemy and its allies. This will weaken the enemy and lower its morale. Not to mention, this method deprives the enemy of external aid including finances, manpower, food rations and other resources. As such, it will be easier to defeat the enemy while minimising the damages to one’s own troops.Ulta’s primary competitors include Sephora and Amazon. In order to edge out these beauty retailers, Ulta has approached brands carried by their competitors and made deals with them to release certain new products exclusively at Ulta. For example, although Sephora carries Tarte, a well-known cosmetics brand, only Ulta carries the Tarte Maneater Eyeshadow Palette (Chan, 2017). In 2016, Proactiv, a skin care brand specialising in acne, made an exclusive partnership with Ulta, resulting in Ulta being the only physical retailer that carries proactiv. Ulta and Proactiv have both stated that mutual customer demand was what realised the partnership (Sciarretto, 2016). Exclusive partnerships benefit both the brand and the chain retailer as in the case of MAC, a cosmetics brand that entered Ulta’s exclusive line in year 2017 in hopes to find a new audience due to Ulta’s large estate as well as wide range of customers (Born, 2017). This partnership has resulted in a boost in Ulta’s sales for that fiscal year (Thomas, 2017).3.32 If the guardian is a thoughtful and detailed person, the nation will be strong and mightyIn this context, Sun Zi mentioned that the general is like the guardian of a nation and hence, the welfare of the nation lies on the shoulders of the general. A considerate and attentive leader will notice the needs and desires of his people and hence, he try his best to satisfy them. In return, the people will have better spirits and are more motivated to serve him which will cause the nation to flourish.Ulta has adopted this strategy by being attentive and taking the time to research what its customers want. Firstly,  Ulta has established a loyalty program called the Ultamate Rewards Program its efforts to tailor its program to its customers’ needs, which prevents them from going to competitors like Sephora or even Amazon. A staggering 90 percent of Ulta’s sales come from its loyalty program members, which is proof of the program’s success (Tierney, 2017). These members earn a point for each dollar spent and have access to discounts and exclusive sales as they accumulate more points. According to David Kimbell (2017), Ulta’s marketing head, “By leveraging Ulta’s customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, Ulta can identify customers that are most likely to buy a certain product and personalize communication, sampling and point-of-sale efforts directly to them”. This helps to create a quality experience for each individual shopper whether on the web, on mobile or in-store. For example, rather than giving 20 percent off the entire store, the company is now directly targeting loyalty members with personalized discounts based on their shopping history (Biron, 2017).Ulta is also thoughtful when it comes to the guest experience. In response to today’s millennials desire for a more interactive shopping experience, Ulta launched a mobile application called Glam Lab which helps guests to virtually test products and shades (Lindner, 2016). Ulta also pays attention to its older customers who may be confused by these new technology implementations by placing sales assistants in-stores to help them out.3.47 He who is able to unite himself with his officers and men as one mind, spirit and purpose will win.The interpretation of this concept is that a leader who values unity among himself and his subordinates will be able to succeed because when their interests and mindsets are aligned, they will be able to act as a whole, which increases their morale and productivity. This will ensure harmony despite their individual differences and prevent their enemy from sowing discord among them. Ulta executes this strategy by providing its employees benefits so that it can unite the whole company by encouraging them. For example, Ulta has an Employee Assistance Program which is design to help staff overcome personal issues that might interfere with their job responsibilities and productivity. Ulta takes a step further and sets up anti-discrimination policies to ensure the company is fully inclusive and everyone receives equitable treatment. It is also stated in Ulta’s code of business conduct that it does not permit any employee to unlawfully harass another employee (Ulta Beauty, Inc., n.d.).Ulta’s CEO Mary Dillon has been employing this concept ever since she joined the company in year 2013. When touring Ulta stores, Dillon can be seen giving store managers warm hugs and greeting stylists by name. She makes store visits around the country at least once a month. Her visits often include mini focus groups with staff, during which Dillon asks for the brutally frank feedback (Wahba, 2016). Despite Dillon’s high position in the company, she continues to integrate herself with employees of all positions.During a meeting early in her tenure, Dillon noticed that no one seemed comfortable asking questions. Today, she encourages open feedback through a survey that goes out to the company’s associates, measuring their engagement, their trust in the management and whether they believe their managers support their career development (Braunschweiger, 2017).3.48 He who is proactive and well-prepared and awaits his unprepared enemy will winThis concept states that a leader who takes the initiative, plans ahead and is ready to face his enemy will succeed. A leader must set goals and be proactive in efforts to achieve them. A leader must also have foresight and plan accordingly so as to ensure that he will not falter when facing unexpected situations and is actually equipped to overcome them. Dillon is proactive and involves herself deeply in all aspects of the company. Dillon wanted to see what it felt like to work on the retailer’s front lines on the craziest shopping day of the year. On Christmas Eve in 2013, she picked up a six-hour sales-floor shift at an Ulta store. During this stint, she realised that Ulta’s marketing strategy at that time which was focused on coupon discounting was contributing to the company’s downfall. In response to that, she began to formulate a long-term plan and strategy for Ulta to expand aggressively. Dillon’s first move was to craft a senior leadership team that could see the business from the customer’s perspective 10 years in the future (Elejalde-Ruiz, 2015). As such, Ulta began making its e-commerce presence known. In 2014, Dillon set a long-term goal for e-commerce to double from 5% of Ulta’s sales to 10%. Since then, it has grown at a searing pace of about 50% a year (Wahba, 2016). Ulta also set a long term goal in 2016 to achieve a 15% operating margin by the end of 2019 while growing its earnings by 20 percent per year. Besides that, Ulta also has short term goals such as annual targets in regards to how many new stores it opens. In 2017, Ulta set a goal to open 100 new stores by the end of the year and managed to hit the goal. (Kalogeropoulos, 2018).Under Dillon’s leadership, Ulta also made investments that it’s going to need for the next five to ten years (Elejalde-Ruiz, 2015). For example, Ulta invested in digital marketing and a relaunch of the mobile site which led to an increment in its online traffic by 57 percent and a skyrocket in mobile traffic by 92 percent in its third quarter of 2017 (Grill-Goodman, 2017).3.51 Thus it is said: He who knows the other side (the enemy) and knows himself will not be defeated in a hundred battlesIn this concept, Sun Zi stresses the importance of knowing the strengths and weakness of oneself and the enemy. One must use this knowledge to its advantage and create stratagems accordingly so that the enemy cannot defeat it.Ulta knows it’s advantages and amplifies them by forging relationships with other brands based on their strengths. A prime example of this is that Ulta is aware that it’s large estate which spans over 1,100 stores is a strength of theirs. As such, they partnered up with Benefit, a cosmetics brand, to open over 200 Benefit Brow Bars (brow grooming stations) across Ulta stores since they can execute this project in a large scale. Recognizing that salon guests spend almost three times as much as other customers, Dillon moved the Benefit Brow Bar to the front of some stores so that shoppers see services when they enter, resulting in a 15 percent increase in salon sales in 2016 (Braunschweiger, 2017).Ulta is also aware of its disadvantages such as its obsolete infrastructure and marketing. In efforts to overcome these weaknesses, Dillon has pulled back on the company’s high speed growth to reconstruct its infrastructure up to its ambitions. Under her direction, Ulta is opening distribution centers, streamlining supply chain systems, bolstering e-commerce capabilities and rethinking marketing to focus less on discounts and more on education (Elejalde-Ruiz, 2015). Not only that, Ulta recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of its competitors. Dillon has acknowledged that Amazon’s strength resides in how fast and easily it can deliver items to its consumers due to its online platform but Amazon’s weakness lies in how it only operates online. With this information, Dillon has focused on the salon services that can only be experienced in Ulta’s physical shops such as facials, nail services as well as brow and hair grooming. Discussion and Recommendations3.9 The next best strategy is to attack his relationships and alliances with other nations.When Ulta ‘attacks’ the relationship between its rival and the brands they carry via an exclusive partnership with the said brand, Ulta gains an advantage in which it attracts a new customer audience. This is because loyal customers of the partnered brand will try out Ulta in order to buy the exclusive product sold only at Ulta. This gives Ulta a good opportunity to gain new loyal customers and a boost in sales.A disadvantage of this business practice is that Ulta may face rejection when approaching the allies of its rivals. For example, Ulta faced rejection multiple times when it tried to partner with Nars, a cosmetic brand carried by Sephora (Ulta’s rival). Other prestigious brands such as Dior were also reluctant to be part of Ulta due to Ulta’s image (Wischhover, 2017). Ulta has been known to carry low-end brands such as Maybelline so high-end brands like Nars and Dior might find Ulta to be an unsuitable partner.A recommendation to overcome this disadvantage is that Ulta should spend more time and commitment in building a positive relationship with reluctant companies so as to convince them. For instance, Ulta can spend more time in communicating with these companies and educating them more about their philosophy which is “to make beauty fun and have all things beauty in one place” so as to clear up any misconceptions (Ulta Beauty, Inc., n.d.). 3.32 If the guardian is a thoughtful and detailed person, the nation will be strong and mightyThe Ultamate Reward Program brings Ulta a few advantages. One of them is that Ulta can collect their customer’s personal information easily and efficiently so that they can tailor benefits specifically to each shopper. For example, Ulta gives thoughtful freebies to their members which are based according to their purchase history. This deepens the customer’s emotional connection to the store more than a generic free gift (Braunschweiger, 2017).However, this also brings Ulta a disadvantage: customers may fear misuse of their information, especially if companies have loopholes in their privacy policies or if they work with third-party companies with lax security measures (Firesheets, 2012).To deal with this disadvantage, Ulta should make its privacy policy visible at the store, website or its rewards program brochure so that customers are aware of how their data will be handled in the company. Ulta should also tighten its security measures by investing in data security and be ethical in regards to the usage of their customers data when dealing with third-party companies.3.47 He who is able to unite himself with his officers and men as one mind, spirit and purpose will win.Ulta’s CEO Mary Dillon (2017), once said, “In retail, you’ve got humans serving humans, the more engaged and happier the associates are, the happier our guests are.” As such, Ulta gains an advantage from this business practice. Employees become more motivated to contribute to Ulta’s growth as well as become more productive due to the increased morale. In return, Ulta’s reputation as a employer will also skyrocket. A disadvantage of this business practice is that employees might be overworked in the process of striving to achieve further success for Ulta. For example, in 2011, a lawsuit was filed against Ulta  on behalf of three Ulta store managers because Ulta had incorrectly classified them as exempt from the overtime requirements of California law. The case ended with Ulta paying  $3.65 million as settlement, which means Ulta acknowledges the long hours its store managers have put into making Ulta’s California stores so successful (Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, 2016).As a recommendation, Ulta should set a restriction or a monthly cap for overtime hours to ensure that employees lead a balanced lifestyle. Another possible solution is Ulta can implement a rotation system to distribute the overtime. In this system when an employee works a certain number of extra hours, their name is scratched off, and the next employee on the list will be eligible for overtime (Astron Solutions, 2003).3.48 He who is proactive and well-prepared and awaits his unprepared enemy will winUlta’s intricate plans and investments in infrastructure has given it the advantage of being able to capture scale efficiencies as well as support the shopper experience. The biggest advantage Ulta has gained from planning in advance and being well prepared is that their sales growth has soared over the years. For example, Ulta’s e-commerce sales has increased an astonishing 22% in the third quarter of 2017 (Biron, 2017). Additionally, Ulta’s stock price has increased by more than 250 percent since Dillon became CEO and its market capitalization now exceeds $15 billion (Wahba, 2016).The disadvantage to the way Ulta implements this business strategy is that Ulta is only proactive in the United States and District of Columbia and is only well-prepared for the market there. For instance, although Ulta dominates the beauty market in the United States as it holds 27 percent of the shares in the beauty retailer industry, Ulta’s global presence is miniscule compared to its competitor Sephora, which is operating in more than 30 countries (Wischhover, 2017).A recommendation for Ulta is that it should offer international shipping on its website so as to attract customers from other countries. This can generate brand awareness from international beauty enthusiasts. After gaining international brand recognition, it should consider opening chains overseas so that it can open up untapped markets from foreign countries.ConclusionAs a summary, the concepts in Sun Zi’s Art of War are gradually becoming more popular in the west as they equip businesses to be able to survive in an increasingly competitive business environment. Ulta Beauty, Inc. is one of the public companies that can relate the third chapter of the book (Strategic Attacks) to their principles and hence, they continue to enjoy success in the beauty industry of the United States. However, there are also loopholes in their implementation of these strategies