Being a business owner takes guts, but it also requires a certain level of gut feeling, a business acumen that’s honed over years of learning the hard way. Your gut is that sense that something isn’t quite right with this situation. Or maybe something’s totally right with the situation and you need to act now. That gut is what can make or break you. But how can you tell the difference between that wordless and wise intuition and other, more sinister emotions like fear? Here’s how to balance your guts with your brains.

  • Trust but verify. Let’s say a client comes in. They’re in a screaming hurry to get something done–it has to be now, but they’ll absolutely pay you as soon as the work is done. Is your Spidey sense tingling? It should be. Take the opportunity, but CYA with a contract (reviewed by a real lawyer!), a down payment or another assurance. Yes, we’ve been burned this way. No, it wasn’t fun.
  • Let the past predict the future. A client comes to you and wants you to do something way outside of your wheelhouse. You’ve never done it before and aren’t sure you have the capabilities. Is it worth the risk? Look at your team. Even if they haven’t done this exact project before, have they used the same kinds of skills in the past? Do they have the necessary connections? Can they get them at a cost  which still lets you turn a profit or can it be outsourced or white labeled with reasonable confidence? It can be hard to tell the difference between a new business opportunity and a big business folly, but by looking honestly and critically at your business, it can be done.
  • When in doubt, your gut’s probably right. Recently, Lorraine and I were debating taking on a project. “I think we could do it, but…” Lorraine trailed off. “Boss, has there ever been a time when you ignored your gut and didn’t regret it?” She took a moment to think. “No. Every time I’ve ignored that feeling, I was wrong.” It’s decidedly not scientific, but our subconscious can pick up on cues our smart, thinky brains can’t always divine. It’s the same reason dogs sometimes just hate some people.

When all else fails, apply your intellect to your gut and see which one comes out on top. If the logic behind taking the risk outweighs your bad gut feeling, take the leap. If not, it’s okay to go with your gut.