Everyone struggles with the big decisions in their lives. After all, if your decision isn’t difficult, it’s not much of a decision at all. Knowing how to make a big decision can make a huge difference in your business and life. But when you’re in business for yourself, it sometimes seems like there’s an endless number of decisions to be made – each with the potential to vastly change the outcomes for you and your business.
- Should I start this venture?
- Should I introduce a new product or service?
- Should I give this customer a discount or keep my prices premium?
- Should I partner with someone to help grow the business?
- Should I employ this person?
- Should I invest in this advertising campaign?
- Should I take a lease on an office?
- Should I expand overseas?
So many decisions that it becomes extremely easy to be overwhelmed.
One thing I’ve learned is that not all decisions need to be made at once. Usually, there is a clear hierarchy or logical order to all of the decisions that are floating around in our heads. Writing all of these potential decisions down can help by making you realise that some decisions are dependent on others. For instance, there’s no point wondering about whether you should go into partnership with someone until you’ve decided to start your new business. There’s no point considering whether to hire someone to help with a Facebook Ads campaign until you’ve decided to invest in a marketing campaign.
It can often help to consider which decision is at the bottleneck of your business.
So your first decision is really which decision to focus on.
Use Questions to get clear on the Decision
Now that you know which decision you’re focusing on, do you really understand the nature of the decision? I find it’s a good strategy to articulate specific questions about your decision. For example;
- Will we grow faster by focusing on our existing product line or expanding into new product lines?
- How would an extra product affect our margins?
- Will I make enough money to support my family if I start this business?
- What impact will starting this business have on my family life?
- Will I enjoy more life satisfaction if I take this direction?
Are you Ready to Make the Decision?
So, you’re about to make a big decision, but do you have all of the information you need in order to decide? Asking the right questions (above), often identifies some gaps in your arsenal. Of course, it’s often not possible to really have all the information you would like, but do you have all the information that would be reasonably available? If not, go out and get it! Research online or seek out people who have been in similar situations and have a conversation with them.
Seven Techniques to help you Make a Big Decision
Ok, you’ve prioritised your decision, clarified exactly what you’re deciding on, and you have all of the information you can reasonably expect to gather. You still need to actually make that big decision! How do you do that? Unfortunately there’s no perfect tool or system that will give you a foolproof answer, but here are a few decision-making techniques that can help:
1) List the Pro’s and Con’s
Of course you’ve heard of this before, but actually writing down what you expect to be the upsides and downsides to each alternative often provides a lot of clarity.
2) Multivariate Analysis
This sounds fancy, but all it really means is that not all of the pro’s and con’s you’ve listed should be given the same consideration. You can either get technical and try to assign a relative weighting to each factor and figure out which gets the best score, or you can simply highlight and note the factor(s) that have a lot more weighting in your mind. (Often one single factor can outweigh all of the rest.)
3) Revisit your Vision
If you have a clear and compelling vision statement for your business, this alone can often provide a lot of clarity for the various decisions you’ll face along the way. When faced with a big decision, simply ask yourself which option moves you closer to your vision.
4) Use the Prioritisation Matrix
When you’re deciding between several alternative paths, the prioritisation matrix can be a great tool. Map out how each of your options falls on this matrix.
5) Flip a Coin
No, I don’t actually mean you should let chance determine your big decisions. Instead, use the two options you’re considering and allocate one to heads and one to tails. Flip the coin and check the result. Does your heart sink? Do you feel relieved? Use this instant feedback to understand what your gut thinks you should do.
6) Check for Bias
Although understanding your gut reaction is a good idea, it’s also good to realise that your gut sometimes has it’s own agenda! Does one of the decisions involve something that you’re dreading or are you trying to avoid something by making a particular decision? (If one of your decisions involves having a difficult conversation, or doing something else that is usually against your nature, look carefully.) It may be that you need to take a deep breath and just do that thing you know needs doing.
7) Look Forward 3 Years
Pretend you’ve made the decision. Just choose one of the options you’re considering and imagine yourself in 3 years time. How has it panned out? Imagine your situation in as much detail as possible. Are you happy with your decision? Do you have any regrets?
Now do the same for the alternative option. Now do you have regrets or are you happy? For me, this is the most important tool and I’m motivated to make decisions so that I don’t live with regrets. (In most cases, this means trying something even if there’s a good chance of failure – at least then I’ll know I tried!)
Remember, No Decision is Still a Decision!
With these tools to help make a big decision, there’s really no excuse to keep pondering. Avoiding making the decision is still a decision to do nothing. And in my experience, doing nothing is often the worst decision to make. Of course, it’s easier to keep going along as you’ve done previously, but this doesn’t usually lead to anything good.
Do you have other strategies you use when you have to make a big decision? Leave a comment as I’d love to hear about them.