How I make business decisions that get results
By Peter Muiruri | May 19th 2021
Making sound decisions is a skill that paralyses. And for an entrepreneur, delays can be the difference between clinching a deal or sinking. We talk to four business leaders who give some insights into the ‘dos and don’ts’ of the decision-making process.
Lee Karuri: Speedy consultations...
Slow decision-making is costly. Key matters affecting companies have big implications on business but the time to consider them and give a firm direction is usually short. The consequences of procrastination requires a lot of time and resources to correct. In addition, many decisions have implications to third parties who need timely information for them to plan.
One of the best decisions we ever made was to invest and create our in-house building and construction subsidiary managed by qualified technical personnel. This ensures quality control and reduces on overall construction costs
I highly regret a decision to have our growth and expansion business model based on large debt financing, easily accessible from banks. This created a challenge in managing the debt. My advice? Keep company debt levels to a minimum and base expansion on internally generated revenues, organic growth and savings.
Some senior company decision-makers shy away from making them because they want to avoid taking responsibility for risky or negative outcomes. However, when you hold a position of responsibility in a company, one of the expectations of that office is timely decision making.
Before making an important decision, I do all the relevant consultation both internally and with external experts. This helps me understand the various scenarios or implications of the decision, both short term, medium-term and long term. Major decisions must be well informed to ensure you achieve the desired results and minimise potential risks or challenges.
Joanne Mwangi: Fact-gathering
The best decision I ever made was getting into entrepreneurship at a young age. By that one decision, I have created wealth, a decent livelihood, skills transfer and upgrading as well as a quality work experience for many.
Procrastinating on decision-making is a vice. Everyone in authority needs to make quick decisions to shape the direction of the team. Procrastination means putting everyone else in limbo and is viewed negatively by subordinates who are inconvenienced and irritated by lack of clarity. Procrastination kills respect, diminishes esteem and strips your team of the confidence they have in you.
Before making a decision, get all the facts you need. Correct facts. Then improve your understanding of the facts by talking to knowledgeable people or researching. Also, observe the dynamics of the external environment. Then make the best decision you can, all facts considered.
I don’t regret any decision I have made as it is from failure that we learn and grow from but I do wish I had decisively and intentionally ring-fenced personal time from the get-go. If I was to do it all over again, I wouldn’t work all hours as I now know that quality relationships with oneself, family and friends should be prioritised.
People shy away from making decisions because of fear of making the wrong one. It is however better to take a position and be wrong rather than sit it out and fail by default. We often regret decisions or actions we failed to take rather than those we take only to later realise we need to adjust for success.
Dr Victor Mwongera: Consult mentors
One of the best business decisions I ever made was about staff welfare. With the current economic climate, many organisations have implemented hiring freezes. Kenyatta University is no different.
My department had less than 50 per cent of the necessary manpower and that made for a dangerously understaffed department. Therefore, I made the decision to document the state of the department and how we could not effectively continue to deliver services. The comprehensive report put into focus how understaffed we were. As a result, the department was given additional staff members and things have definitely made a turnaround
Delays in decision-making lead to a vacuum. Delays and procrastination in decision-making is an open invitation for others to usurp your authority due to the vacuum you have created. It is far better to be decisive on a matter than to delay due to indecision. After all, no one can know every possible outcome of the decisions we make. The best we can do is to make the best decision with the information available.
One decision I regret is when I once delegated a lot of responsibility to an officer which resulted in poor decisions that required months to correct. Correcting meant performing a crisis management and staff encouragement process. I have since learned that delegation is not always the magical solution to any problem. Delegate roles with clear job descriptions, expected outcomes and deliverables. Trust but verify.
Don’t shy away from making a decision. Many people retreat from decision making out of fear. We have supervisors and stakeholders who are interested in the decisions we make and who have an outcome they would like to see. Therefore, make sure your team feels included in the process and that their opinions are heard. Ignoring them is a recipe for poor morale and low productivity. If you are not able to handle this balance, then your decisions will have strong reactions, making you shy away from making further decisions.
I strongly believe in having a mentor, someone who has walked a similar journey with me. Therefore, even when I know I am doing the right thing, I still rely on my mentor when making a major decision to get an objective assessment of my thought process.
Nev Jiwani: Gut feeling
One of the best decisions I ever made was to transfer all our business platforms online over eight years ago, transforming the company into a digital marketing agency. When the pandemic hit, we were already in a good position for business continuity. We successfully took part in the first virtual tourism expo where we were recognised by 53 countries and awarded among the Top 10 virtual event companies in 2020.
Before making an important decision, I meditate, pause and trust my intuition.
Procrastinate and lose the deal. If you are in authority, procrastinating in making a decision affects the company as well as the people around you. You are in charge and must make some immediate and thorough decisions. At times, you cannot be diplomatic but downright straightforward because when opportunities come knocking and you fail to act fast, someone else may steal your tomorrow. With today’s cutthroat competition, you need to be on top of your game.
I cannot point out a specific decision I regret but I make room where my team and I agree to disagree. This is a stepping stone towards growth and change.
Many are afraid to make decisions because they are worried about the outcome. There is also a lack of confidence and self-esteem. They ponder over the question, ‘What if?’ Such insecurities may require one to seek advice or therapy to overcome.
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