Whether solving a daily conundrum or plotting a game-changing move, small-business owners are constantly making decisions. However, spending the day putting out fires may not be the best use of your time.
“Having to cope with the same problems over and over is taxing and exhausting,” says Robert Papes, a consultant who helps businesses improve their bottom lines. “Furthermore, it prevents the owner from effectively managing the business.”
So how do you overcome challenges while finding time for everything else? Here are four ways to improve your decision-making skills — and keep steering your company in the right direction.
- Identify root causes. Making a decision to solve an immediate problem may provide a quick fix, but there could be an underlying cause to those day-to-day problems. Is the real issue linked to certain procedures or processes that could be changed? For instance, let’s say your business is constantly shipping items late. Rather than repeatedly deciding how to handle the delays, re-evaluate the shipping schedule. Perhaps your current setup doesn’t factor in time for unexpected bumps, such as machines breaking down and supply shortages. By adjusting the schedule, you’ll be able to better estimate the amount of time needed to get an item shipped. This, in turn, will likely fix the surface issue of scrambling to figure out how to handle the current delay.
- Ask others for input. When Molly Mahoney Matthews, president and CEO of The Starfish Group, a consulting business, needed more space, she decided to set up a second office near her home. Although she enjoyed the short commute to the office, she quickly learned that her employees were unhappy with the new arrangement. Staff members needed to have frequent face-to-face meetings, and the two locations made those difficult to carry out. “The two office locations became a running joke,” she recalls. As soon as the lease on the second location was up, she moved everyone back together again. The lesson: Get feedback before making a major decision. “Ask what they would like or dislike about upcoming or past decisions; then listen to what they say,” Matthews advises.
- Keep your goals in mind. Where do you want your business to be in five years? Before making a decision, run the issue past the long-term plan you have for your company (and if you don’t have goals, it’s time to make some). Make sure your choices — even the seemingly small ones — are in line with your overall outlook for the company.
- Let it rest for a bit. There’s often pressure on a small-business owner to make decisions quickly, but it’s usually not as urgent as it feels, Matthews notes. For important matters, take the time to sleep on it before making a decision. If you’ve just written a memo to employees, set it aside for an hour or two before sending it. When needed, ask for more time to consider your options. Once you look at a matter with fresh eyes or a good night’s sleep, you’ll be able to make a well-thought out decision that benefits the company.
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