What Smart Entrepreneurs Know About Decision-Making

If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got. — Lee Iacocca

If making decisions takes more of your time than it should, take a look at these strategies for making faster, better decisions.

Better decisions aren't found in fortune cookies
photo courtesy of iStockphoto, © JOE CICAK

Get clear about your objective. If you aren’t sure exactly what you want to achieve, then no decision about how to get there will feel right. This may sound obvious, but often entrepreneurs get caught up in trying to make what feels like a tough choice, when in fact what they’re wrestling with is a vague objective.

Forget perfection. Most decisions are not “life or death,” so don’t treat them as though they are. We live in a world of better and worse alternatives. Most choices will have a bit of rot along with the excellence. Those alternatives are still successful.

Consider the risks, both the odds and the seriousness. Take some time to evaluate the risks. What could go wrong with your preferred plan? If it did happen, how bad would that be? Just because the plan isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it’s wrong. (See above!) But it’s important to have a good bead on what your real risks are.

Know your fallback position. Recently a client was planning a large event and needed to choose a space. One space was the preferred location, but it was being renovated.  Uncertainty about whether the renovation could be finished on schedule had kept her tied in knots and unable to make other decisions. We took some time to map out a fallback position, so she understood what her decision points were, and how to make the project work in case her first choice location wasn’t ready on time. Knowing what absolutely must be done, and what you can do to mitigate any problems in case it doesn’t happen, can provide you with the courage to move forward and the reassurance that the world won’t end if you don’t meet your objective.

Dare to share. Involve others in your decision process — employees, your coach, partners, and colleagues. Many examples prove that the wisdom of any group is superior to that of its wisest single member. Let your team help you.

Learn, but don’t stew. When you make a mistake, take the opportunity to look hard at your process. If you had it to do over, could you have made a better decision? I don’t mean, if you knew then what you know now. No one ever gets to know the whole story in advance. Wishing you could go back and re-make a decision you made at 30 with the wisdom you have at 50 is just a waste of time. You probably did the best you could with what you had at that time. If that’s not true, then maybe you can gain some insight into yourself. Are you a person who acts impulsively when you’re bored? If boredom has led you into more than one poor decision, find a way to factor that into all future choices. Have you been horrified by short-term losses in the past, only to see them reverse and become gains given a little more time? Learn to take a longer time horizon and be prepared for criticism from those who may carp today but will eat crow tomorrow.

Most of all, don’t procrastinate when faced with a decision. More time is lost during the decision-making phase than at any other point in a project. Be a smart entrepreneur. Walk through the steps, and then move on.

2 Responses to What Smart Entrepreneurs Know About Decision-Making

    • Ellen, I’m glad you found it useful. You’re right – it’s about keeping the right perspective that allows you to make good decisions and not waste time second-guessing yourself.

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