Make a Decision Before Your Competition Does it For You


Canglour Glen, road junction for 2012 photo.
© Copyright Robert Murray and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

According to the Houston Chronicle, indecisiveness is one of the factors that causes over 50% of small businesses to fail over the span of five years. Fear of criticism, failure, or even success may stop us right in our tracks. Fear is a natural reaction to many key business decisions, and criticism is part of the package too. Don’t be afraid of it. Instead, recognize it for what it’s worth, and take steps to make those key decisions before your competition does it for you.

Here are 9 things you should consider when making a decision:

  • Overcome Fear–Fear is the biggest obstacle to overcome when making decisions because it often causes paralysis. You may be afraid of making a mistake, losing money, getting sued, or losing customers. This fear causes indecisiveness and lack of innovation. Before long, your competitor is on your heals ready to overtake the dream that you worked so hard to achieve. Be determined to make a decision regardless the uncertainty of the outcome.
  • Set a Deadline–If you’re going to wait on a decision, make a conscience choice to come back to it by calendaring a due date. If you can’t make a decision today because you’re not in a good place emotionally, you’re angry, or drained, remember to set a date to revisit the decision. By setting a date you allow yourself the time to be intentional.
  • Allow Enough Time–Realize that bigger decisions take more evaluation, thought, and time. Conversely, small inexpensive decisions should be made instantly.
  • Break it Down–Break big decisions into bite-sized chunks. Narrow down options to the few best, launch your product in test markets, create a focus group, or do a survey. This way you’ll have the data that you need to formulate your decision without tackling the problem all at once.
  • Gather Your Data–Research and gather information and opinions.  Options are powerful because they remove fear. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst-case scenario?” Most of the time death isn’t in the equation when you play out the worst-case scenario. Even if the worst-case scenario is hard to swallow, as long as it’s survivable you can still move forward with the decision. Always strive to have a few good options to choose from because they improve the quality of the decisions that you make.
  • Evaluate the Financials–Evaluate the financial impacts of the decision. Determine if you’re willing to risk your entire business on one decision, product, or idea. I wouldn’t recommend it. Wait to revisit the idea when the timing is right.
  • Values–Ensure that your decision matches your values. There’s nothing worse than saying that you believe in something and then doing something totally contradictory.
  • Seek Advise–Seek the counsel of experts and your spouse. Ask those around you who have knowledge in a field that you’re not an expert in, understand the information they’re providing, and use the information to make an informed decision. It’s a good idea to get your spouse to weigh in on the decision as well.
  • Journal–Journal your thoughts about the problem and potential solution. When you take the time to articulate your thoughts on paper, you process the information once again and engage another part of your brain to help you make the decision.

Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing”. You will make mistakes, but generally the cost of these mistakes is less than the cost of indecision. Doing nothing is a great way be one of those 50% of business that close after five years.  What decision are you struggling with today?

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