Gut Check Time: Entrepreneurs Must Make Tough Decisions


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This post was inspired by friends of mine who recently faced tough decisions in their own businesses. Decisions on whether to merge with another company, fire a client, terminate a key employee, sell or wind down the company are just a few examples business leaders face.  How to make the decision seems to be the biggest challenge.

Leaders have the courage to make tough decisions.

As an entrepreneur, not a day goes by when you aren’t faced with a decision that will affect your company in some way.  Most of them are easy to make, but sometimes you are faced with extremely tough decisions.  These decisions are defining moments in your company and in your life.  The results of these tough decisions could send you into a downward spiral, or they could propel you to the next level.

Many times, especially if you’re a first time entrepreneur, you don’t know what the right decision is.  You question your gut and your own confidence in yourself. You wonder what will happen if you go in the wrong direction.  You may even want someone else to make the decision for you.  But a good entrepreneur is a good leader.  And a good leader has the courage to make tough decisions.  Ultimately it is your decision to make and you must rise to the challenge.

So, how do you do it? 

I’ve found that by following these steps I am able to feel confident in my decisions and move forward full speed ahead:

1)  Embrace the challenge – You chose to be an entrepreneur. You are in control. You thrive on taking the road less traveled. You know you will make mistakes, but you believe in taking responsibility, learning from your mistakes and becoming better for it.  Just do it.

2)  Analyze the data – What led to this decision point?  What are the options?  What are the possible outcomes? It’s more than making a pros & cons list.  Yes, do that too, but take it further. Ask “if this, then what, and if that, then what” and follow that trail down several steps.  Do you end up at your desired outcome?  Obviously there are many unknowns, but when you use assumptions you can get a sense of what it may take to reach your desired outcome.

3)  Seek Advice – If you haven’t already, surround yourself with mentors.  You should have at least three people who help you with the following perspectives:  a) your industry, 2) business, 3) morality/integrity.  The best outcomes are possible when a decision is made based on these three perspectives aligning. Certainly you are not limited to three people, seek as much advice as you like.  Just remember that advice is kind of like pieces of a puzzle. You may recognize some of it fits right away, some may not fit until half of the puzzle is complete, and some may never fit.  It’s your job to reflect and recognize the good advice.

4)  Self-Reflect – A good leader looks inside first. It starts and ends with you. Have you thought of all the options? Do you have enough data? If you have a team, what’s in their best interest? What about your customers, suppliers, investors, family? Make sure that you’re able to put a check mark next to doing right by people.  Your integrity is more important than the outcome.

5)  Decide – This is the hardest part.  Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis.  Be decisive.  You’ve followed the steps. You know what your gut says.  Go with it.  Make the decision.  Then move forward and don’t look back.

Every entrepreneur will face tough decisions in their career, and life.  Some decisions are painful, as well as some outcomes.  You can always learn from your mistakes.  But making the decision is what counts.  That’s what makes an entrepreneur a good leader.

What kind of tough decisions have you made? How did you decide what to do?