Making decisions is part of the life of a small business owner. You make so many decisions every day, it becomes second nature. As your business grows, you must face challenges and decisions outside your comfort zone. When that happens, it’s wise to look to others for advice and information. Over the years I have turned to my husband, brother, employees, friends, other business owners and paid professionals for advice.
While some of the advice confirmed what I already thought, there were other times when the advice didn’t seem right. At that moment, an internal conflict began. If I chose to ignore the advice, there was the risk the person would be offended and unwilling to offer other assistance. On the other hand, if I did follow the advice, even if it felt wrong, who is really to blame if it didn’t work out?
What I have learned is that as a business owner, you can not abdicate responsibility for the big decisions. This is your business. If you don’t like the suggestion, thank the person for their input and let them know they have given you a lot to think about. But before you say no, consider the following as part of your decision-making strategy:
- Ask yourself why you don’t like the advice. Is it because it isn’t something you would have thought of? Often an employee may suggest a new approach. Before you say no, ask yourself if the advice is bad or just different. If the risk of failure is low, give your employee the benefit of the doubt. If it is their idea, they will be vested in the outcome. If it doesn’t work, it is a terrific learning experience. In more high-risk situations, explain your concerns and look for ways to mitigate the risk.
- Did you give them all the facts? If not, why are you asking them for advice? If some of the relevant information is confidential, find someone you trust to talk to, but don’t ask people to fill in blanks. It’s like building a table but only putting three legs underneath it. It’s going to wobble and probably fall over.
- Did you ask the wrong person? There are many smart people who may not be able to help in some situations. My husband has a Master’s degree in finance and my brother is the best salesman I know. When I am facing questions about capital expansion for the business, I talk to my husband. If the question is about a sales incentive program or preparation for a big sales call, I reach out to my brother or my sales coach Matt. I don’t ask them to give advice on subjects they don’t know a lot about.
If you don’t like their answer, sometimes it helps to get a second opinion, but be careful you don’t ask too many people. I see this often as business owners are faced with decisions far outside their comfort zone. Unsure of their judgment, they ask everyone in their life for an opinion. The conflicting opinions from people who have even less knowledge of the situation leave the business owner paralyzed. If this happens to you, it may be time to turn to a professional.
At the end of the day whatever you decide, real success is less dependent on what you decide to do and more dependent on how well you execute whatever you decided.