Every now and again, any business that’s innovating and growing will be faced with making important business decisions …and it’s often extremely difficult to know how to approach this type of decision making.
These are not the kinds of decisions that you can just “Google” the answers, and in fact, there aren’t necessarily any right or wrong answers to be found. These types of big business decisions could include things like whether to hire another person, which position to hire for next, whether to expand into a new market, whether to move to online/in person product delivery, whether to partner with another business or person, how to brand and position your business, whether to move towards wholesale / retail customers, etc etc.
Two frameworks that we’ve previously written about can help in certain situations. If you’re struggling to know which problem to solve next or allocate limited resources, it can help to find the bottleneck in your business. Likewise, if you’ve got a whole lot of ideas and are not sure how to prioritise them, you can try this project prioritisation framework. However, when it comes to a really big decision, like choosing between two different paths that might change the very nature or direction of your business, you’ll need a different approach.
So how do you tackle these types of business decisions? While there’s no perfect framework that will spit out the answers, there are a few tools that can help clarify the situation and make your choices more obvious.
7 Approaches to Making Important Business Decisions
1) Imagine Giving Someone Like You Advice
Think of a friend or someone you know who you would consider to have similar values and skills to yourself. Then imagine that they’ve come to you for advice on the decision you’re facing now. Because it’s now not about you, it can help you get some perspective and take the emotion out of the decision. It may also help you uncover the specific reason you’re reluctant to take a particular decision even though deep down you know it’s the right way to go (maybe it will take a lot of work, maybe you’ll have to put up with working with someone you dislike, etc).
2) Consider ALL the Different Options
This sounds obvious but sometimes you might be stuck thinking between A and B, but if you really think about it, there might be further options – C and D. Forcing yourself to clarify which decision you’re actually making is a great start.
3) Write out the Pro’s and Con’s of each Alternative
This is pretty basic stuff but when you do it, you might be surprised at what comes up. Clearly you can’t just tally up the results and make a decision, because some factors are a lot more important than others. You could create a spreadsheet with different weightings for each result, or you could also…
4) Get Aligned with your your Goals and Values
If you can clearly describe the type of business you’d like to be running in 5 years or the specific things you’d like to have achieved by then, you can assess each alternative on how well they align with your desired future. Which decision is most likely to help you reach this ultimate end-goal?
5) Which Option would “Future You” Regret More?
Often when I’m making decisions, I try to imagine myself in the future looking back at this decision. If I chose A and it went well, what am I thinking? If it went badly, how do I feel about that? What about if I chose B? This leads me to think about which I would regret more – which often helps me take risks that I might have otherwise talked myself out of for fear of failing.
Marie Forleo recently did a great video on having the courage to do anything where she shares a similar idea on thinking about “what’s the worst that can happen if I do something / what’s the worst that can happen if I don’t do that thing?”
6) Don’t Forget that Timelines are a Factor
Just because you might decide not to pursue something now, doesn’t mean that you can never do it. You can plan for it in a year’s time or when you hit a certain milestone. Or, you can plan to pursue one option for a particular timeframe and then, depending on the outcomes, pursue another option. You don’t necessarily have to do everything now!
7) Have a Bias Towards Action
Often we can spend way too much time pontificating on a certain decision without making much progress. In reality, that time and energy would be much better used just making the decision and moving on. (There are very few things that can’t be reversed, fixed or somehow straightened out later.)
Alex Turnbull from Groove recently wrote a great article about this exact point. He points out that the distraction from not making certain decisions can weigh heavily on your business and at some point, any decision becomes better than continuing to sit on the fence. To implement this idea, set yourself a deadline for making the decision. This will force you to spend the time necessary to think it through enough – but then allow you to move on.
What are your strategies for making big business decisions? I’d love to hear about other approaches so please, explain in a comment below…