October 22, 2014

Decisiveness: Three Steps To Making a Decision

making a decision

Making a decision can be tough, especially when it’s a business decision. You face an almost infinite range of things that you could be doing in your business at any particular moment.

You could choose to deal with a staff issue, a bank issue or a cash flow issue. You can decide to focus on a new customer acquisition tactic or strategy, a new ad campaign or an issue that has come up with a customer. You can choose to deal with administrative details or you can choose to deal with personal and family issues that so often seem to be intertwined with the business. Or you can choose to do any of the other infinite possibilities that face you as a business owner.

For many business owners, this massive number of options can cause them to put off making a decision.  They fall into believing that if they can just gather more data and consider more options, they may be struck with a flash of brilliance that will guide them.

In most cases, the hoped-for flash of brilliance doesn’t materialize and you are eventually forced into making a decision (i.e. payroll needs to get paid; the lease is expiring this month; you need more sales, etc.).

When faced with the sudden pressure of making a decision, the decision that is made is often a poor one.  It ends up being based on a default position that is based on ease rather than what is optimal for creating the results you want. There is a better way.

Three Steps To Making a Decision

Avoid this situation by applying a proven three-step process:

  1. Realize the staggering range of possible options facing you is usually perceived rather than real.
  2. Create a CVM (could versus must) chart.
  3. Don’t look for a sports car when a minivan will do.

1.) Perceived Rather Than Actual Complexity

A lot of what masquerades as complexity is really only a natural reaction to a lack of clarity.  When you get right down to it, there are only four things you need to focus on:

  1. How many customers you have.
  2. How often your customers buy from you.
  3. How much you make each time they buy.
  4. What activities you do to combine these other three things.

Everything else you think you need to deal with (all the other sources of perceived complexity) are simply variations of the four things listed above.

2.) Create Your CVM (Could Versus Must) Chart

To focus your mind and effort even further when making a decision, you should do your best to only focus on the thing(s) you must deal with at any particular point in time.

An excellent way to do this is to create a CVM Chart.  This a powerful way to examine any current situation and identify the high impact things you really should be focusing on.

To create a CVM Chart, take a blank sheet of paper and on the left hand side of the page, list everything you can think about that you could do at this very moment in your business.  This is where you will generate a laundry list of things that play around in the back of your mind.  List them down and acknowledge them. It will get them in front of you where you can deal with them.

Next, on the right hand side of the page, distill from your list of all the things you could do into three things that you must do right now. Keep the four things from step one above in mind as you identify these three things.

3.) Don’t Look For A Sports Car When A Minivan Will Do

I must admit that my heart races whenever I think about owning a sexy sports car.  The reality, however, is that as a father of four children, as sexy as that sports car might be, it really wouldn’t be a good or useful solution for me.

You need to apply the same type of realistic mental discipline when you consider the things you must do.

For example, don’t get caught up thinking you need to create an entirely new product or service offering if you can get a sufficient boost in your financial results by simply asking your existing customers to buy more from you.

Adopt this three-step process in your business any time you start feeling overwhelmed by making a decision.  You will feel more in control and you will make better decisions.

Decision Photo via Shutterstock

8 Comments ▼

Steve Wilkinghoff


Steve Wilkinghoff Steve is a leading small business expert and author of the book, Found Money: Simple Strategies to Uncover the Hidden Profit and Cash Flow in Your Business. His experience with thousands of small business owners around the world has allowed him to create a proven set of tools, processes and an online software app that allow small business owners to create the financial results they truly want. You can find out more at Found Money CFO.

8 Reactions

  1. I find that point #3 often trips people up. It can be difficult to accept that all you need is a minivan when you’ve always envisioned having the sports car. Heck, you may only need a used minivan instead of a new one. Knowing the difference between need and want is important.

    • The third one is often the one that gives business owners their hardest challenge. It gets back to making sure you get clear about the definition of personal success (I call it your Dream Lifestyle) and the role your business should play it it.

  2. It’s hard to also compromise between where you are and where you think you should be at this point. You have to operate at within the current means.

    • Bang on Robert!

      Getting clear about where you are at the current moment is the first step. It’s amazing how many small business owners often miss doing this – or avoid facing the facts. As you point out, they often focus on where they think they should be at this point.

      The good news is that, no matter how ugly the present state may be, clearly identifying it allows the business owner to immediately start implementing steps to start to improve upon it.

  3. Good points to help with decision making Steve ….. I would add sometimes you want to step back and put the decision into perspective. How important is it in the bigger picture. That way you won’t spend more time on it than it deserves.

    Don’t spend $100 of your time on an issue that’s only worth $10. That way you’ll have more time available to spend on the critical decisions.

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