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10 Minutes, 1 Decision: Go

Effective decision-making doesn't need to take a lot of time. These six tips may help business owners make the right call in less time than it takes to order lunch.
July 12, 2016

Many small-business owners are indecisive about any big decision that needs to be made, which may hurt their business. Effective decision making doesn't need to take a lot of time, if you follow these six tips.

1. Write the exact decision that needs to be made.

Be as specific as possible. Instead of jotting down “Hire salesperson,” consider writing "I need to hire one of the following three salespeople who will focus on large accounts and bring in new business by the end of the year.” Specificity may help narrow the choices down, making it easier to come to a decision.

2. List two or three alternate choices.

Consider reducing the choices to three or fewer options, because it may be difficult to compare more than three things at one time. In the case of that sales job, the choice may be among Rob, Terry and Suzanna.

3. List expected results or consequences.

What's expected to happen after each choice is made? In this example, list specifically what the hoped for results might be when hiring each one of the salespeople. Make a separate list for each. Consider—and admit—if you're making the choice based on emotion and not facts. While it's not necessarily bad to make a decision on emotion, this motivation should be clear in your list.

Ultimately, there are no perfect decisions. There are only right ones given the known information at a certain period of time.

4. List any irreversible consequences.

If there are irreversible consequences, you might discount this option heavily. The key here is to not make any decision that would limit your company’s flexibility in the future. Would hiring one of the three salespeople carry a higher risk than any of the others? Does one come from a competitor and likely have a non-compete? 

5. Consider the mission and values of the company.

Ideally, each choice is filtered through this lens to see how it fits. Which salesperson may be the best cultural fit and best exhibits the values of the company? Take these factors into consideration.

6. Commit to a choice and wait for results.

How long will it take to see if the decision had the desired results? This is important to help ensure there’s no flip-flopping or buyer’s remorse. Make the choice and stick with it. Announce it to the team and be prepared for the result and what comes next. Try not to second guess the decision until a result is known. Wavering may mean the desired outcome is not accomplished.

Ultimately, there are no perfect decisions. There are only right ones given the known information at a certain period of time. Ideally, you may make many small decisions and then evaluate the results. This should give you the flexibility to make another choice that gets you further along to a successful outcome.

Read more articles on leadership.

A version of this article was originally published on July 8, 2015.

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