How to be a better decision-maker

Too many choices have you paralysed? To help your start-up grow, follow these 6 steps to overcome “decision paralysis”.

As the CEO of a start-up, the pressure is always on to grow and to grow fast. Growth requires decision-making and the pace of decision-making is increasing at an awesome rate.

Every day we are bombarded with hundreds of emails, each with different aims. Some are purely informational, to be stored in our minds and recalled for future benefit. Other emails “keep you in the loop”, while yet others are questions from the team seeking direction and clarification, or customer queries and requests for action.

In this post, I will share how I recognised that I was in a cycle of decision paralysis. The subject in question was pricing, one of the fundamentals of any business. This was the item that had to be right – or so I thought.

What I learned in that process has made me a better decision-maker.

1. Don’t consume too much information

Never before have we had access to so much information at our fingertips. Google searches, books and audio books, blogs and Quora can provide years of reading on one subject. To strive to make the best decision, we often seek more information to fine-tune the outcome.

At some point we need to stop, as additional information won’t lead to a significantly better decision. When you are trying to make a decision on something where no-one knows the answer, gathering more information can just lead to decision procrastination or even paralysis.

2. Let the data and feedback guide you

To overcome that feeling, decide fast and let the market data and feedback be the guide. As you begin to sell or provide a new service, there is no range. What you are ultimately doing is testing assumptions and seeing which ones stick.

Related: Making the leap from employee to founder 

Keep your ears open for every opportunity to get feedback and make adjustments. While all feedback is important the overall trend is the key, as individuals may have special needs and biases which are not statistically important for everyone else.

3. Nobody else can make a better decision

I’ve learned that the key is to question whether I am the best person to make the decision. Whose scope does it fall under? If the decision is one of strategic importance, then it is clearly my decision to make.

Don’t worry about getting it wrong. There is nobody else who could make a better decision while understanding all the factors. So trust yourself.

Mistakes are inevitable and I expect them to arise at the most inappropriate times. Seek to learn from what has happened and implement a tighter process. Savour the fact that you don’t need a committee meeting to take action and make new decisions.

4. Get used to the uncertainty

When setting the direction for something new, there is no blueprint. You don’t know if what you are doing is right or wrong. You only have a feeling as to what it is you want to achieve, so keep an open mind and know that it will be an evolving model.

5. Confront the fear

The greatest fear is that you’ve got it all wrong, but put it in context: this is just one of hundreds of decisions.

The ultimate worry is that nothing gets done, things get delayed and the sweet spot in the competitive landscape has passed.

The direction of the business is shaped when the majority of decisions are on the right path.

6. Making the decision is the most important thing

The management time of a start-up’s CEO is the most important time of the whole company. The key is to maximise efficiency and hence reduce the time spent re-visiting and re-considering the same facts and information again and again.

The best use of time is to take a one-touch approach: fully consider something once, make a decision and move on to the next problem. There are endless problems to solve.

Steve Hui CPA is the CEO and founder of successful start-up

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