Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lesson #87: The Art of Decision Making


A startup executive needs to be knowledgeable, intuitive, receptive, nimble and flexible in their decision making process.  Today's lesson will provide a few recommendations for mastering this art of decision making.

Knowledgeable.  Having a core base of information to work with is pretty self-explanatory in any making any decision.  Making a good decision requires you have a solid grasp of the key variables at hand, and which of those variables have the highest chance of leading to your most desired outcome.  If you don't feel you have enough information to make a good decision, it is up to you to ask the right questions to help you address that decision.  And, it is up to you, to know your own personal limitations, seeking internal or external assistance to help you formulate a well-thought action plan.  As a rule, make sure you have enough information to prioritize your decisions around which actions will most "move the needle" in terms of driving or protecting revenue.

Intuitive.  Sometimes, being smart is not enough to make a good decision.  Some decisions cannot be easily researched ahead of time.  And, in those cases, you will need to follow your gut instincts.  Nine times out of ten, your gut instinct will always pull you in the right direction.  I call it having a "spider sense".  Learn to nurture and follow those instincts, even if it is contrary to everything else you are hearing from others.  And, don't be afraid of making a mistake in the process.  Sometimes you just need to go for it.

Receptive.  Decision making should not only be a self-determined process.  If you have surrounded yourself with a smart management team, investor group, board of directors, mentors or other advisers, tap into the collective experience of the group to help you better formulate your thoughts.  And, more practically, if you don't solicit your team when making key decisions, or listen to and implement their new ideas presented along the way, you will alienate them and make for a dysfunctional team.

Nimble.  It is more important to move quickly, than to wait months trying to research the answer to a problem with 100% certainty.  If you can come up with a A- answer in four weeks, and an A+ answer in four months, go with the A- to get a perfectly acceptable solution into the marketplace three months faster.  Once again, don't get bogged down with too many details, afraid of making a mistake, that the market opportunity passes you by in the process.

Flexible.  Do not dig in on making your original idea happen, if the original idea is not getting any traction.  The original idea may not be getting traction for a reason, and you need to be flexible enough in your thinking, to take whatever feedback the market is telling you about your product or service, and focus on the advice or input that the market most desires.   Or, if market conditions make your old model unsustainable, quickly figure out a new model.  As an example, if iExplore had stayed a 15% travel agent model in the wake of 9/11/01, we would have gone out of business.  It wasn't until we became a 35% margin tour operator and online travel publisher for additional revenues from advertising, that our profitability finally took off.

Keep in mind, often times, there is more than one right answer to a problem.  And, being a good decision maker involves cutting through the clutter, and prioritizing the best of these options (most usually around driving the most revenues as possible).

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