Whether you realized this or not, when you became a business owner, you signed up to be the Chief Decision Maker for your business. This is because businesses exist to solve problems, and business owners have to make decisions in order to keep solving problems. So, if being a business owner equals being the Chief Decision Maker, then your success is directly tied to your ability to both make and then act on those decisions. Fortunately, there are ways to improve decision making in your business so you are proactive instead of reactive and your decisions lead to successful growth.
The Problem with Indecision As a Business Owner
Indecision – or the opposite of the ability to make a decision – means that you are standing still. Indecision means that you are not doing anything. Growth is not happening. And, if you are not growing, you are dying. There is no standing still in business, unless you no longer want to have a business anymore. That may sound harsh, but it is particularly true in the current noisy marketplace and constricting economy in which we find ourselves.
When you are not able to make decisions, you are most likely existing in reaction mode. If you do not proactively decide what to do in a situation, then you are reactively deciding what to do. Reactively deciding what to do means that you are chasing something instead of creating something with intention. And chasing something is rarely pleasant.
If you have ever had any sort of surgery, dental work, or an injury that caused physical pain, there is a phrase in pain management called “chasing the pain.” Especially after a situation like surgery in which you know that there will be pain involved later, you want to make sure that you are heading it off before it happens, instead of waiting until you are horribly in pain and then doing something to resolve it. So, for example, if your pain meds last four hours, then you need to have a plan at three or three and a half hours to take action before the pain is really bad again.
Avoiding this idea of “chasing the pain” applies in your business as well. Don’t wait until a solution becomes a problem (or that problem becomes a catastrophe) before you do something about it. Making proactive decisions and then going about creating your solutions is going to be much more successful than only reacting to the pain of something that has gotten very bad.
Proactive Decision Making Tips
In order to be proactive about your decision making you have to be doing a few things on a regular basis. These include tracking everything, having a clear vision, knowing your priorities, and analyzing the results of your decisions.
The first thing that you must do to make proactive decisions is to track everything. Data driven decisions are the antidote to knee-jerk reactions. Without data, you do not have a clear, unbiased view of what is working and what is not working in your efforts.
Whether you use a simple spreadsheet or a CRM, some things to track include the number of people you are talking to, how many connect calls you have each week, and how many sales calls you are having. You can also track how many offers you make, and how many offers become sales. You can track where you are spending your time each week, the open rates for your email marketing messages, and your social media metrics. It is also important to track where you are spending money, and what is your return on those expenses.
Have a Vision
In order to make good decisions, you have to have a vision of the tangible outcome you want your business to create. Without that vision of what you want to build and achieve, you put you and your business at risk for scope creep and going way off track.
Scope creep, or service creep, means agreeing to do things that you didn’t actually mean to do. When you do not have boundaries of what your business does and does not do, you end up doing things that you didn’t necessarily want to do. And while you may have the skills to do those services, it can quickly throw you off your plan when you agree to do them.
My favorite example of the importance of having a vision comes from one of the case studies I read when earning my MBA. One of these case studies was from the book, “Good to Great” about getting the right people on the proverbial bus that is your business. In order to be successful, you need the right people on the bus. However, great people won’t get on the bus if they don’t know where it’s going.
In other words, the right people – whether it’s your team, or your clients – will not join you if they don’t know where you are going. For you to show them where you are going, your vision for your business has to be uber clear, so that people are attracted to you because of the certainty that you are offering.
Know Your Priorities
In order to make good decisions, you have to know your priorities. What are you working on right now that supports your vision? You’ve heard the idioms, “You can’t cross two bridges at once,” or “You can’t chase two bunnies.” If you are a dog owner, think about your dog trying to chase two different bunnies in your yard, and the fact that he or she doesn’t catch either.
Without knowing your priorities, you can end up in that same situation. It is essential to know what you are focusing on right now as well as why that is your focus. That way you know where to place your attention, as well as why it is important not to get distracted.
Analyze, analyze, analyze!
Going back to the first tip, it doesn’t matter what you are tracking if you never look at the data. My favorite question to ask is, “Where is the intersection between the problem that your ideal client has and the problem that you are awesome at solving?” I ask this to both my clients and to myself. In fact, Conquer Your Business has been through several iterations since I created it, and we are going through our next iteration right now, because of the answer to this single question.
Where is the intersection of the problem your ideal client has, and the problem that you are awesome at solving? You have to analyze the data that you are collecting, and ask yourself that question all the time, so that you can make your decisions based on those answers. The reason you have to continually do this analysis is that this intersection moves all the time. The intersection of what your client needs and what you offer moves with the market, with your evolution, and you need to make sure you are moving with it.
In fact, the biggest problem that I am seeing right now in the small business world is that people are not moving along with their answer to this question. Their client’s problem has shifted, and the business has not shifted to solve that new problem. And what many small business owners are learning is that if they do not proactively move ahead to solve this problem/solution situation, then they will get knocked into reaction mode. And reaction mode means that they are chasing solutions instead of creating solutions out of inspiration.
Analyzing your data and the problem your client has, compared to the solution that you offer, is something that should be done weekly, if not daily. If you only analyze your business decisions monthly, quarterly, or yearly, chances are you will be reacting to problems instead of proactively guiding your business where you want to go.
Two things That Hinder Proactive Decision Making
There are two things that will screw up your decision making abilities. In fact, they don’t just mess up decision making in your business. These things mess up decision making across all of the areas of your life, in your health, in your money, and in your relationships. These things are desperation and insecurity.
If you are desperate – and I know that’s a heavy word – you are going to make bad decisions. For business purposes, let’s focus on money. The harsh reality is that if you are focused on needing money, and you are fearful of the situation that could arise if you do not earn money, you are going to chase the money instead of creating something with intention that has a greater outcome for you down the road.
The second thing that causes bad decision making is insecurity. If you are being driven by the need for people to like you, or are worried about whether or not you will succeed or fail, you are going to make different decisions than if you feel confident. When you feel confident, you understand that each decision you make is just an opportunity to collect data so that you can make better decisions the next time. When you feel insecure, though, you lose your trust in yourself to make good decisions, and you can easily lose sight of your vision and priorities.
When you are aware that you are making decisions based on desperation and insecurity, you can sometimes put off making a decision until those feelings subside. Of course, this does not mean procrastinating on the decision forever, but you can take a break and do something else for a little while before returning to decide what you are going to do.
How to improve your decision making skills:
So how do you get better at making decisions? You make more of them! Decision making is not something that you think about in order to get better. Decision making is a thing that you do to get better.
After you make your decisions, it is important to reflect upon those decisions, and then debrief yourself or your team. Ask yourself:
How did it go? Did you have the outcome you expected? Did it lead to something unexpected but equally good or better?
What instinct did you ignore before you made the decision? If you are a Star Wars fan, you know the iconic line, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Did you have an instinct that you should or should not do something that you ignored and did it anyway? Did the results match your instinct? Or were your efforts affected by your instinct? In other words, you thought something did not work, so you did not try as hard as you could have?
Where did you not do enough to make your decision work? Where did you absolutely give it your all and what was the outcome? Did you do all of the work necessary to support your decision? It’s important to be honest with yourself. It’s all just data. Where did you give your decision your best effort, and where could you have done better? Did that affect the outcome?
What questions did you need to have asked before you made the decision that you didn’t ask? This was a big learning experience for me. I joined a coaching program not knowing how much more money it would cost me to actually implement on their ideas, so now I always ask what else will I need to invest in so that this program will work for me?
Growing Your Decision Making Muscle
If you want your business to grow, one of the number one muscles you can build is your decision making muscle. You may not know this, but I come from a powerlifting background, and the muscles in your body actually get broken down by lifting, and then get stronger as they repair themselves. So the only way to build bigger, stronger muscles is to use them.
Decision making is the same way. Even if you make a decision that doesn’t come out as planned, your decision making skills get stronger simply because you used them. So, pay attention to your decision making, and go out there and grow your decision making muscle.