5 Techniques for Making Hard Decisions

Kiley Peters

Executive Coaching,
Small Business

As a business owner, the buck truly stops with you. 

Challenging situations come across your desk every day and it’s up to you to be able to make the most informed, just, and effective decisions you possibly can, especially when those decisions are hard and, oof, can they be hard sometimes. 

Rapidly shifting economic realities, global pandemics, changing the direction of your business, planning your exit, letting an employee go, or just plain needing to evolve in order to keep your doors open. You need a plan when times get tough. 

Try out the following techniques to help you make hard decisions a little easier to navigate.   

 

Ask Around 

Even if the final call is up to you, it’s a good idea to seek input before you go through with your decisions. Everybody has blind spots and sometimes trusted friends, colleagues, mentors, or family members can see something you can’t that might change your decision. 

Use your resources. Gather the information. Ask for opinions/perspectives to ensure you’re not operating in a silo.

Even if you feel solely responsible for a decision and alone in your role as owner, you’re surrounded by people invested in you and with insight to spare. Reach out for help. It takes a village. And you don’t know what you don’t know. So know as much as possible before making a decision.

 

Ask the Hard Questions

The longer you own a business, the more likely you are to develop business owner intuition. You’ll build up enough experience, make enough decisions that you fine-tune your spidey sense for making the right call. Appreciate this skill, but go beyond the first impulse and make sure you have a clear sense of the pros and cons first.

Ask yourself a series of questions to get at your motivations, your values, your alignment with your life’s purpose, your blind spots, and what you’re prepared to endure as a result of your decisions. 

  • Will I feel the same tomorrow, next week, next month? 
  • What concessions need to be made? 
  • How will this impact team morale? 
  • How/who will be impacted by this decision?
  • What is the cost of NOT making this decision?
  • Will responsibilities shift? 
  • What additional resources will be needed?
  • What is the timeliness of this decision?
  • Do you have the infrastructure to support the decision?  
  • What blindspots are you missing? What haven’t you taken into account?  
  • Might going through this difficult decision lead to something better than you can attain right now? 
  • What is the worst-case scenario? Best case scenario? 

Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Allow yourself to hope just as much as you prepare yourself to endure. And always know what you HOPE will happen. Just so you can acknowledge it if it does come to fruition. Consider both short-term and long-term pros and cons. 

 

Consult Legal 

You never know what legal implications your decision may have. From ensuring your brand name isn’t trademarked by somebody else to how you interact with contractors, there are so many variables that can have legal consequences including the words used - written or verbal. 

Take a few minutes to chat with your attorney to make sure you don't get in hot water or say or do anything that can be used against you. They’re uniquely qualified to advise you on what to say, what not to say, what you need to put in writing, and how to protect your business and yourself.

By following their advice, you can minimize some of those unintended consequences of making hard decisions.  As a general rule of thumb, less is more here. Communicate the minimum to reduce potential liabilities down the road. 

 

Create and Document A Process 

While you can’t always predict when you’ll need to make a hard decision, especially when changes hit your business (COVID anyone?), you can implement processes for milestones you’re likely to experience during your business owner journey. With a structure in place, you can focus less on logistics and more on being thoughtful about your choices.  

At Brainchild Studios, we love our team, but sometimes it's in the best interest of the team to remove a member. It’s never fun. It always sucks. And it's emotionally charged. So to make it a smidge easier, we have a robust and well-documented process we follow so we make sure we are human and cordial and kind and thorough and legally compliant.

 

Create An Action Plan

Expect that your tough decisions will have consequences, foreseen and unintended. So before you make decisions, create an action plan so you're ready to make moves to protect yourself, your company, and your team, as appropriate. When the going gets tough, be prepared.  

Remember that you are likely dealing with another human on the other end of this tough decision—employees, contractors, partners, clients, etc. While we, as humans, can act quite irrationally, we are still humans. Be human. Just be prepared.

Making hard decisions can shake you to your core, move you deeply, and ultimately make you a better business owner and a better person. You’re on a journey, and each hard decision you make is a step towards living the life of your dreams. It’s so worth it, and there’s no shame in using your resources along the way. Work smarter not harder.  

 

Working with a small business coach is my bonus technique for making hard decisions. You get undivided time (hard to come by as a business owner, right?) to sort through decisions and a trusted advisor to provide input, help you plan for any consequences, and ask the right questions to lead you to the right decision for you and your business. Sound like a dream? Let’s chat.

 

 

Kiley Executive Coach & Consultant

Kiley Peters is a serial entrepreneur, national speaker, executive coach, and small business consultant. Having personally counseled over 100 small and medium-sized businesses on operations, business development, digital marketing, and consumer behavior analysis over the last 17 years Kiley is incredibly passionate about serving small business owners. She is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a research and business strategy partner for small businesses and mid-market executives, and also created the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a virtual business. With these experiences in her back pocket, she understands the challenges and struggles small business owners encounter. 

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