One of the unique characteristics of being a small business owner is the ability to control your own destiny. It also means there is nobody left to “pass the buck” to even if it is passed to you. For the pleasure and responsibility of making the important business decisions, you reap the rewards of a good decision and suffer the costs of a bad one.
Before making a significant decision, we often ask for business advice. It is even more fun to give advice. There are many ‘coffee shop tax specialists’ available to help you with your taxes. Sales people are often good at advice on tax strategy with respect to their product. Bartenders give advice on many topics. Just about anyone can advise you on how to handle your divorce or how to raise your kids. I often find myself sharing my thoughts on legal issues with a small business owner even though I am not a lawyer. All kidding aside, the point is to consider the source before listening to the advice.
No matter what the issue, a really good small business advisor is one who listens and asks questions, instead of giving answers. Socrates said, “I never give my students the answer; I ask them questions until they find the answer themselves”. We all really just want our business advisor to be a sounding board, to help us think through our options and then support us on the decision we come up with. I recognize that some business advisors have technical information that is relevant to the decision that need to be made, and can share past experiences that are useful.
When there are partners or spouses involved in the decision making, the decisions risk becomes dysfunctional. The biggest risk is that each partner gets an equal turn at making a decision. If it is determined that partner A’s decision is right only because partner B’s decision was applied last time, it may not be the optimal decision for the business. If two partners just avoid making a decision because they disagree on it; this is also dysfunctional. If at all possible I recommend one boss be responsible for all decisions in a particular aspect of the business.
We need to understand that it is often the action we take after making a decision that is more important than the particular decision that was made. It’s the indecision that results in lack of any action that causes a business more problems.
We also need to be honest with ourselves in identifying if we are making our decision based on emotions or based on rational business logic. We are all human and it can be hard to separate the emotional thinking from the rational thinking.
The best business decisions have had the emotions removed from them. One of the best ways to remove the emotional thinking is by taking more time. Sleep on it. Once you are aware of the presence of emotional thinking, it becomes easier to avoid. In challenging times, good business decisions are often painful emotional decisions.
My advice is to make the best business decision even though it may be painful. There is usually more pain experienced contemplating the decision beforehand than after it is done. The business is now better off going forward as it benefits from the good business decision made. Everything else gets better after as a result of a good business decision.