If it’s not a heck no, it’s probably a heck maybe!
How to make decisions in the face of infinite options
A lot of the time in entrepreneur land we “go with our gut” and find “what feels in alignment” and most of the time that will steer us right for big direction style decisions but when you’re choosing between a few marketing options, what do you do if everything just feels like a heck maybe? Are you just going to stop marketing your business?
One of the reasons I was hired for my first big city corporate job, was to provide over 3 weeks of cover for my boss to travel home to a land of really awkward time zones down under. I had 6 months. Hello, learning curve.
It’s one thing to learn someone’s processes but it’s quite another to feel all those decisions riding around on your shoulders.
The most important thing I learned about decisions in this baptism of fire is to just make one.
I know it sounds like something so obvious but we get so stuck in a cycle of research and what if and FOMO that we land up wasting more time than we would by trying out our first option and failing and have way less data to show for it.
Now that is very simple to say and not so simple to do so here are my go-to rules for making quick informed decisions in that face of all the options.
Limit your research
I am pretty high on the Kolbe fact-finder scale and my top strengths finder strength is learning so this is an area I both excel at and love spending time in. I give myself a set time, say 30 minutes, to let my inner research nerd loose on a problem and then based on the best info I have, make a call. Yes, this seems viable — or nope, time to try a different route.
Make sure it makes money
This should be the most obvious question for any business person but we’ve all had that pet project we got excited about and started before we created a business plan. Usually, we hear the siren call of the revenue dollars and make a call based on how much compensation that feels like for effort.
This is often where I find people who’ve decided their first foray into business should a low priced membership. Be ruthless with your estimate – for example, don’t look just at how 100 people at $47 per month will work, ask how long will it really take to get and KEEP 100 people month after month?
Then get granular with costs- do you need a new system, more VA time, more of your own time? Yup, your time has value even though you usually leave it off your profit and loss.
Is this option profitable enough?
Get qualitative not just quantitative
Opportunity cost is just the technical term for business FOMO. It means anything you need to sacrifice to do this option. That may include your other options now or down the road or it could be qualitative like family time for travel.
Don’t make it personal
Deep down if you really admit it, is there a personal reason you want to do the thing? Do you want to write the book because you dreamed of being an author as a child or because of a valid business reason? Do you want to speak from stage even though none of your clients are in the audience because you never became an actor?
I am not suggesting a personal reason is invalid just that it might help you prioritize when you do the thing v other business opportunities. Or that you severely limited the time and budget you dedicate to it.
Plan for the worst
This can be a tough question to ask yourself in this time of uber positivity but really feel into this one. Nine times out of ten the worst will be wasted time, lost money or embarrassment.
Once you have the worst case scenario, check to see how you could mitigate it – can you set a firm budget, allocate specific time blocks or tell a friend why you’re afraid to see if you’re being logical. Sometimes just admitting the fear out loud can make it seem nonsensical.
And the golden rule…
Get on with it
Those scary three weeks left me with no choice but to be decisive. As a newbie in my job with my boss on the other side of the planet, I was running a month-end consolidation of over 100 companies with multiple people needing answers from me every hour for around 5 days with a strict regulatory (aka real AF) reporting deadline. I learned a key lesson that still serves me:
Making a speedy mistake is better than not making a decision at all.
The quicker you decide, the quicker you get results – good or bad – and the faster you can adjust as needed. And the less annoying you are to everyone else involved.
PS: Another moral of this story – I made some wrong decisions in those three weeks but at the end of the day, I am not a surgeon, firefighter, cop or lion tamer so nobody died! Sometimes it helps to remember that when you’re too scared to make a call one way or the other.