How to Make Great Decisions As an Entrepreneur

by Kristen Burgess
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Every entrepreneur wants success – and you probably know that the most successful entrepreneurs are able to make quick decisions. What those successful people have done is master the decision making process, the risk taking process. You want to be able to say “Do I do this now or not? Should I keep pushing, should I stop, should I change gears or should I go forward?” It’s especially intimidating when you’re a beginning entrepreneur. These are strategies to help you get started making confident decisions right away – because action leads to results.

Use the Experience of Others for a Jump Start

It’s often valuable to study not just your own past success, but the successes of other people. This is something successful people do. They don’t just study one person’s experience and say, “Well, whatever mistakes they made, I won’t make, whatever things they did right, I’ll do.” Instead, they study perhaps 50 histories of successful people. They look at all of the mistakes that those successful people made and then they come up with a pattern. They use this pattern when they are getting ready to make a decision. Now you can think, “OK, I’ve read that so-and-so did that in 1973 that didn’t work, and someone else did it in 1979 and it did work, so what was the difference?” “If I do this in my own business, what are the odds that it will work, what are the odds that it might not work?” That’s when you look at the experiences of other people…

… when your own experience bucket is light, you can fill your experience bucket with other people’s experiences.

Feeling Confident with Your Own Decisions

I remember when Peyton Manning had just come to the Denver Broncos and they played something like 3 or 4 games. Somebody asked him a question about a particular game and his response is something that made an impact on me and I continue to think about his response from time to time, especially when I’m in difficult situations. He made a comment something like this, “Well, as we make mistakes together as a team, and as we perform different plays in different difficult situations, we have those experiences in our memory. In the future, when we encounter a new situation and we don’t know what to do, as a team, we can rely back on our successes and failures in similar situations. As a team, we’ll be able to do better going forward.” He was much more succinct than that, but that’s the concept. I use that when I’m considering risk taking and doing decision making – I’m able to look back on my successes and failures and I’m also able to look at other peoples successes and failures.

Okay, back to you: there are two key factors here: one is experience and the other is failure. As you get more experience and as you have more failures, you’re able to evaluate the next step with more precision. Again, you may be thinking, “I have no experience, and I’ve never failed, so what can I do?”

You have a blank slate, so that means that whatever you do next might fail or succeed but you have absolutely no idea what the odds are. Some people might freeze and do nothing because of that. The problem is, if you have no experience and you freeze and do nothing, you will always have no experience!

What if you look at it differently and say: “Being able to make good decisions in the future is impacted by the amount of experience that I have, and the more failures that I have. So therefore, in order to rely on my own experience bucket, I need a few experiences, and I need a few failures.”

And, if that’s the case, the question might be asked, “Does it matter if you fail?” “Does it matter if you try something for one month, or one day, and it fails?” “Does it even matter if it succeeds?” My opinion is that the only way in which it matters is that it adds to your experience bucket.

That means that if you make a decision today, and you’ve never made a decision before, it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re right or wrong. You’re just adding to your experience bucket. Tomorrow you make another decision – and again it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong, you add to your experience bucket.

Evaluate Your Own Decisions

It doesn’t matter if you make 60 decisions in the next 60 days, and every one of them fails. It doesn’t matter! You’re just adding to your experience bucket. 60 days from now you can look back and you can evaluate patterns.

Now obviously, if you make 60 decisions in a row you do need to stop and take the evaluation step. Look at how your decisions worked out. Maybe you ask your best friend to help you, or you ask your worst enemy. Maybe you do a little bit of coaching, or maybe you sit down with someone that’s older and wiser than you and you lay out those failures in front of them.

Even as you’re talking about those failures with someone else, you’re probably going to see a pattern that says some failures are worse than others. And then you’ll be able to ask” “what was the difference between the failures that were worse and the failures that were better?”

You may look at some things and think, “Day 3 that was not a failure compared to my epic failure on day 57.” You may reclassify some things as successes that you didn’t stick with long enough. In theory we’re just talking about filling an experience bucket.

This is how you get started. You can take that initial shortcut I shared – study other great people and use their experiences as a jump start. But don’t stop there. Start making your own decisions. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad initially. Just start doing something. Set a period of time that you’re going to work your initial plan. At the end of that time sit back and evaluate your experience bucket. Then study other people again. Add your own experiences in. And try again. Make decisions. Work your plan. Then evaluate. That’s how you gain confidence and knowledge to make good decisions in your business.

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