Have you been decisive lately?
It may have been a while since you hung your business shingle and opened up shop. Or, you may still be working on hanging that shingle for the first time. Regardless of where you are today on your entrepreneurial journey, there is one thing that's consistent - you have to make choices.
Every. Single. Day.
Every minute of every day you are making decisions. I mean, you decided that the link to this post/blog title was worth a look. When you did that you made an instant choice. You made a choice that meant you’d be giving up your time, and the opportunity cost that goes with this time, to get a little more insight on making decisions.
(This is very meta.)
I think it was a good choice and I hope you will by the end of this post too.
When you decide to allocate something as simple as a few moments it might not feel like a significant trade but trust me, it matters. You are, whether consciously or not, acknowledging that you are willing and able to give up that time in exchange for some kind of value. In economics classes all around the world, this phenomenon is explained as the elasticity of demand. In literal fractions of a second, you measured the possible benefit of the insight of this post against a slew of criteria in which the aggregate of totals who you are as a person.
What you do with your time you do with every other resource. Crazy, I know and it gets better.
In the early stages of building a business, it feels like you have to make a lot of hard and fast choices. There are tradeoffs punching you in the face from every direction. Things like how you set your prices and deciding on the business activities that will make up what you do from day to day. You're putting the foundation in place so that people can find you, learn about you, like you and decide that your offer is worth their dollars.
It can feel like a lot all at once and it can be exhausting. So, how do you develop the stamina to make good decisions on the regular?
Let's start by working through the biggest decision-making hurdles. The first trap I see most often is entrepreneurs holding on the freedom to make choices which really means overcoming the "maybes".
Hoarding your freedom to make choices is a terrible thing. Being an opportunity miser is actually keeping you from making any real progress. You are constantly burying yourself in the super extremes of opportunity costs and for good reason, so you think. Resources are scarce even for businesses that seem to be thriving, that’s always a barrier you will bump up against. Making bad decisions and hoarding freedom of choice can actually do more damage to your business than making decently-informed-probably-not-perfect choices. Why, because you're missing out on opportunities! If you don't invest your time, money or emotional energy you'll never take any action and you won't make any progress.
These next few are smaller but worth acknowledging. These are the fallacies that will eat up lots of time, energy, and produce more stress than your body should probably be handling.
First is the Information Mud Pit. Feeling like you need as much information as possible from as many different experts, gurus and websites is like having your car stuck in the mud while you just hammer the accelerator. Sure it’s going to make lots of noise, throw lots of dirt around, and maybe even start to give you some forward motion but eventually, you are just going to overheat your engine, breakdown and still be stuck.
Don’t let your brain throttle about in the mud and then break down. All those expert sources are just people and they may not be in exactly your situation. Do those people have the same values, personal/professional experiences, or even biases that you do? Work on gathering enough information to cover any of the possible outcomes you can predict (there will be some you won’t be able to predict) and move from there. Just like getting out of the mud in your car it’s going to take a little patience, finesse, and the right tools. Not all the tools ever made – the same goes for research.
Next is being too busy. Everyone is busy so that excuse can’t cut it anymore. What you are doing is finding new and different (read: easier) things to deal with that can give you some satisfaction from safe handling the things on your to-do list that can be completed with the least amount of energy and work. The other part of the being too busy is trying to multi-task a little too much. When your attention is always diverted in lots of different directions the choices you make tend to be less informed, less qualified, less efficient, and just chock-full-of-mediocre. So no more excuses as they will just keep stressing you out as your list of decisions won’t be getting smaller.
The last fallacy I want to kick in the face is that you can’t get what needs to be done because there are always little fires that need your immediate attention. The problem isn’t that you are constantly in a flurry of micro-emergencies, it’s that you have failed to set your priorities. Decision making effectively takes a little work and a little prep time. It’s in the prep time that you should be stripping out your decisions and reorganizing them in a way that reflects their relative importance. I think there is a lot of importance in building momentum in getting things done but you shouldn’t front load your decisions will all the easy stuff. You won’t be taking advantage of the momentum and flexing your decision-making muscles the best way unless you prioritize.
Now that we busted a few fallacies let’s get to some action steps help make you a lean, mean decision making machine.
1. Are you actually making the decision? Sounds like a silly question to ask but it’s important to think about who really has the final say. If you are a solopreneur it may very well be you. But are you part of a team or have a partner you have to run this by? Decide who is going to be making that decision and then move forward with purpose.
2. Set the stage. Very few decisions we make will only affect us. So it’s important to consider how your decision is going to affect the rest of your business and stakeholders. Make sure that everyone is comfortable with what’s going on and understands at least a few of the major consequences of those choices.
3. Make every decision (even the tiny ones) part of the big picture. Remember when you started your business you put a whole bunch of time and effort into your values and mission. Yeah, those still exist. So make sure that your decisions are in line with what you want your business to continue to be and to be perceived being. Everything from color pallets, paper supplies, and even how you package your product will all impact how your brand is perceived.
4. Do your research. At this point I would like to direct your attention up a few paragraphs to part about hiding behind information. You want to make sure that when you are making your considerations you are using good information – good in, hopefully good out. Keep your information lean and relevant. What that means for you is that you do not necessarily need to be an expert on how paper products are manufactured and distributed to pick a new coffee cup vendor.
5. Consider solutions, side effects and possibilities. You want to make sure you try to anticipate as many possible outcomes as possible. Not all your decisions are going to be of Earth-shattering magnitude but it’s important to be aware of how your decisions will interact with the rest of what your business and environment have going on. Your goal should be to get the most out of whatever your resources are all the time. That and making sure all the different departments continue to play nice together to make your business be the best it can.
Before we finish this post I wanted to cover one more thing.
It’s a concept that goes hand in hand with making decisions and that is managing integrity. Your businesses integrity is more than just making sure that all your decisions are in line with your business mission. It’s about allowing your customers and stakeholders to trust your business. It’s trust in you and your brand that will keep your customers coming back. You get to be a trusted resource by continuing to make decisions (for your offerings and how you manage your business) that continue to improve the experience for the customer and client. That includes how you manage your finances, how you handle bad customer experiences, and even how you choose to interact with your community.
Integrity Pro Tips:
1. Always do your best to meet your commitments – saying no sometimes is ok.
2. Treat everyone with respect that includes your competitors and even naysayers.
3. Always be honest. If a delivery is late, you’ve made an error, or shipped the wrong product out - your customers will always appreciate you being open and upfront. Their compassion and respect for you because of that honesty might actually surprise you.