“I don’t know what to do next?” This is a statement that I hear a lot from the women entrepreneurs that I coach when they reach a crossroads in their business. It could be taking the decision to grow their business or remain the same size, or to recruit another key member of staff or wait another six months. And when you get to these key decisions –what do you do?
1. Take different perspectives
Consider the implications of the decision from different perspectives. In her book 10: 10: 10, Suzy Welch uses these three points in time to consider key decisions from. What difference will this decision make in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years? Because whilst deciding that something has short term benefits, such as pursuing a market opportunity in another country, it can mean that you take your eye off your core business, and in 10 months it has suffered.
2. Go backwards along the time line
When we look at an obstacle or issue to address from our current perspective, it can be difficult to envisage a way around it. However, go to the end point and work backwards and you can view the outcome in a different way. For example, when I was planning to sell my business, it was difficult to think about who might purchase it, and how I would find them, particularly if I did not want to openly tell everyone I was selling. So I imagined what a successful deal would look like, what sort of person would be happy as they signed the final documents, what they would have valued about the business, and why they would have decided to purchase it. This made it much easier to work out what I would have done to make that happen, because I was starting from the end point and working backwards.
3. Listen to your intuition
Our intuition can be extremely useful in decision-making. One question that can help you access it is to ask yourself, “if I already knew the answer to this dilemma, what would it be?” When I am coaching women entrepreneurs I am watching out for whether the answer is an “unknown unknown” or a “known unknown”. By this I mean if someone has no idea of possible solutions because they have never experienced it, it will be an “unknown unknown”. For example, if someone has never written a marketing strategy before, or even seen one they don’t know where to start. Whereas if they say they don’t know what to do, but my sense is that they really DO know what to do, but are just avoiding facing up to the issue, then that is a “known unknown”, and likely our intuition knows what needs to be done. I then don’t fall into the trap of telling them what to do, but ask them to think about what is stopping them from moving forwards.
4. Ask for help from someone who has been on the journey before
When you reach the crossroads in business and don’t know what direction to take, often others will have been there before you, and maybe you can learn from their experience. That’s where the value of a mentor comes in. Whilst their experience of your industry or business sector may be different to yours, it is likely that they may be able to shed some light on what the options are that can be taken. You may also have peers whom you can ask for advice. I find that sometimes other entrepreneurs are not willing to help their competitors, but there are others who have an abundance mentality and believe there is enough business for everyone and that having competitors is a good thing. Also many industries experience similar issues, so having a peer network of other entrepreneurs from other sectors can help you get this advice.
5. Take action as ‘no decision’ can be crippling to a business
Indecision can be crippling to a business, and can frustrate employees causing them not to perform at their best. For example, if someone is a poor performer, and the Managing Director is indecisive about what to do, often the morale of the other employees gets reduced because they are the ones that have to bail out the poor performer, or take on a greater share of the workload. So don’t stay at the crossroads too long, instead think through the options using points 1 – 4 and then make a decision. You and your employees are likely to breathe a sigh of relief because a route has been chosen. Even if it’s the wrong route, at least the decision has been made.
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