“If you’re a quarterback,” Tom Brady once observed, “you want everything on your shoulders. You want to be the one to make the decisions.”
And, if you are a sole proprietor you can make the decisions – all the decisions. You can be the metaphorical quarterback because the entire enterprise belongs to you.
Chances are, though, that as your business grows, so will your staff. Your quarterbacking role will, ideally, expand to include other stakeholders. You will be able to make decisions with input from those who impact your business.
Benchmarking is one excellent way to make a well-rounded decision instead of a one-sided one. It allows a full exploration of a situation by having the entrepreneur or small business owner compare her circumstances to those of other small companies.
Using McKinsey’s 7-S Framework
Another way to avoid the quarterback approach, which has one person making all the decision, is to view the decision from multiple perspectives. That’s where the 7-S Framework comes in.
Developed by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in the 80s, the technique brings strategy into decision-making. It forces the decision-maker (ideally, decision-makers) to consider the decision through the prism of Structure, Strategy, Systems, Skills, Style, Staff and Shared values.
This 7-S analysis tool helps the entrepreneur consider the changes that might result.
While a quarterback may have to make a split-second decision, most decisions made by small business owners afford the luxury of time, time to examine the decision to be made from multiple aspects of the situation.
Trusting your gut
Whether you’re running a country or a company, you can make good “gut” decisions if you are confident your gut is reliable.
Even leaders of major corporations will sometimes justify decisions because they “felt right.”
The best decision-makers can shun “certitude” that often proves to be false. They give credence to the estimates that 50% of the assumptions we make are incorrect.
Of course, when there isn’t a clear choice, going with your gut can be the right decision.
Taking emotion out
Doug Plank is a former American football safety and coach in the National Football League. His accomplishments are many, but he may be best known for remarking, “Most football players are temperamental. That’s 90% temper and 10% mental.”
Making decisions when you are angry is not the best way to decide upon a course of action. Systematic thinking will almost always yield better results than making snap judgments or acting out when you are emotionally charged.
Research from Harvard’s Jennifer Lerner has proven this. Talking to others—informally or in a more formal benchmarking comparison—is a good idea. So is analysis, even if it’s as simple as listing the pros and cons of a given circumstance.
Take emotion out, and take out extraneous choices, too. The Startup, one of America’s best publications for entrepreneurs, has found that high achievers make decisions by narrowing their choices, by looking at situations logically, having eliminated distractions.
In summary, as the owner of a small business, you are making decisions all day long. It’s estimated that we make more than 35,000 every single day. Some of those—such as managing cash flow, expanding your client base, dealing with government regulations or coping with the ramifications of a pandemic—will spell success for your future.
In fact, of all the skills you possess, decision-making may be the most important. Keep a record of your best decisions and celebrate as you grow in your skill development.