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5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

How can I make better decisions?

I browsed the web and ended up on Qoura reading the most popular answers. People often suggested, “just do it,” “ignore fear of failure,” and “never turn back.”

I thought it over and really considered it. If I simply ignored the “fear of failure” and just “did it”, would that really be making a decision? Absolutely not!

“Just doing it” results in even more failures and even more regrets. Imagine if general George Patton just ignored his “fear of failure” and recklessly charged straight into enemy lines without a plan! Image if you, or your family and loved ones ignored all risk and “just did it” instead of taking the time to make a well informed decision.

Imagine if we applied those same results for:

– Buying a house

– Quitting your job

– Having kids

– Investing in a new business venture

– Getting Married

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– Having a vasectomy

– Plastic surgery

It probably wouldn’t end up so well!

Instead of flipping a coin, using your magic 8 ball, or “just doing it”, here are 5 techniques to make better decisions.

1. “I cannot decide on what I do not know!”

Hal wanted to quit his job. After his workday was over, he sat down with a pen and paper and came up with a massive list of pros and cons. He wrote out everything he wanted to do and how he was going to make money. He imagined over and over the freedom and excitement that he would gain after leaving. The next day Hal walked into work and quit.

This may sound great to some but, the problem with Hal was that he did not know enough to make a good decision yet! He rushed what he actually had plenty of time to do.

Everything that he imagined and dreamed about was blurry. All the “facts” that Hal used to make his decision were NOT verified facts, but rather bits and pieces that he heard from his friends or picked up on from the far corners of the internet. Hal is extremely jaded.

Hal then replayed the same facts over and over in his head (thinking they were real). No new information was being added to the equation to allow him to make a better decision.

We often jump to conclusions when making difficult decisions that require serious thought and planning. We must first gather more information because:

  1. You do not know what you do not know!
  2. You cannot decide on what you do not know!

If I asked you to solve the following equation A + B + 2Z – 10X = P could you do it?

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Not right away because there are too many unknowns! You could guess or use trial and error but that takes too much time and a great deal of effort in real life. We need to go out and collect more information to make a better decision.

We do not have all the answers

2. “Maybe you can help me?”

The quickest way to gathering more information to make that tough decision is to go out and ask other people. However, there is a trick. Ask the people who have already done it! Stay away from the people that don’t have any experience but seem to know everything.

This year, while I complete graduate school, I wanted to participate in applied clinical research. More specifically, I wanted to design and develop medical devices from a clinical need.

Instead of “just doing it,” I decided to reach out to a respected faculty member to see if it was a good idea. I went to him and poured my heart out. He looked at me like I had 2 heads and shunned me away!

I took the advice to heart and sulked a bit. Instead of just quitting, I decide to gather even more information! But this time, I reached out to other schools including MIT, Stanford, UMN, and Johns Hopkins. The information and feedback I got was amazing.

Why? Because all these schools were actually DOING IT! That had already developed over a hundred medical devices in the same fashion I wanted to do. Not only that, they had specific programs to help people like me who wanted to do that kind of research and design.

On the other hand, my school was not doing it and the professor I reached out to wasn’t either.

-Ask the people who are doing it or have already done it to get more information.

3. Seek the Devil’s Advocate.

As human beings, we are self-confirming. We naturally seek out information that we already agree with and tend to ignore information that we disagree with. Skepticism and denial can be good in some instances, but these characteristics must not be confused with being hard-headed.

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Imagine 2 documents sitting right in front of you, one with information you agree with, and the second with information you disagree with. Whether you are right or wrong, or whether the information is right or wrong, you will pick the document that you agree with first and consider that information more seriously. Obviously, whether you are right or wrong, you will pick the document containing information you agree with first and take that more seriously.

Let’s go back to the “should I quit my job” example. You probably already REALLY want to quit your job and have already made up your mind. Now, instead of making a decision, you are just confirming your existing desire to quit, by collected confirming evidence. This confirmation bias blinds us from the obvious and has lead to some of the worst business decision ever made (for example, Quaker Oats‘ aquisition of Snapple).

To counteract this, reach out and collect information that opposes your existing viewpoints.

Good businesses use this process all the time. When Fortune 500 companies make big time investments (like acquiring another company, investing in new ventures, downsizing, re-sizing, etc.), they hire a completely separate team to investigate the opposing viewpoint, and then seriously consider the opposite.

Remember, “De-Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

4. Beware of the sham options.

Everything seems great in comparison with something crappy.

The other day I was watching HGTV’s Home Hunters Abroad. A couple was shopping for a beautiful island home in Caruso. They required two things: it had to be less than $400,000, and it had to be rent-able.

The couple contacted a real estate, who I now realized was skilled in the art of sales. He lined up 3 beautiful houses. House number 1 cost $399,000 and was perched on top of a hill overlooking a magnificent clear blue bay. The couple fell in love with the view and was seriously considering buying the house until they found out the new construction would get in the way of their ocean view.

After seeing how the couple reacted to the ocean view, the real estate agent quickly changed his sales tactics. He showed them house #2, which had a stunning ocean view and a white sand beach a few steps from their back door.

The only problem was the house was $489,000 – a full $89,000 over budget. The couple was so angry at the real estate agent that they considered replacing him.

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Finally the last on the list, house #3, had no view, was not rent-able and was $10,000 under budget.

Which house did they chose?

The couple went with house #2 that was $89,000 over budget! They made a poor decision and broke the bank because they were not aware of the sales trap the real estate agent set.

House #2 seemed like the best option in that context, compared to the shame option of house #3. In a different context, going an extra $89,000 over budget is a bad idea.

What they should have done was not buy anything and waited until something else showed up. However, when you are in the middle of a difficult decision, sometimes it’s hard to gain that kind of perspective.

5.  Factor in the opportunity cost

How could the previous couple in the home buying example snap out of the mental trap set by the real estate agent?

The couple needed a change in perspective. When dealing with big number numbers like $400,000 and $486,000 the difference might not seem that much, but let’s take another look and consider the opportunity costs.

What is another to $89,000 to you? Well it’s another 2 years of saving every single cent of your paycheck (assuming you make ~$60,000 before taxes). Which means you cannot eat, buy gas, go out, or do anything for 2 entire years. You must save every single penny of your paycheck to afford the difference!

Here are more examples of what they could have bought with the amount the went over budget by:

Conclusion

Next time instead of jumping to conclusions and “just doing it”:

  1. Take some time to gather more information. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Get more information people who have already done it, not the people who are trying to sell it.
  3. Seek the devils advocate and seriously consider what they have to say. You might be just confirming yourself!
  4. Beware of the shame option. All other options seem great in context to a crappy one.
  5. Gain a greater perspective by considering the opportunity costs.

Featured photo credit: thinker / Dan Mckay via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

1. Digital Savviness

As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

How to Develop This Skill

For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

2. Financial Forecasting

Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

How to Develop This Skill

Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

3. Video Production Skills

The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

How to Develop This Skill

Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

  • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
  • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
  • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

How to Develop This Skill

Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

How to Develop This Skill

Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

6. Honing Pitches to Investors

Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

How to Develop This Skill

Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

How to Develop This Skill

Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

8. Automating to Your Advantage

The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

How to Develop This Skill

Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

9. Managing Millennials

Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

How to Develop This Skill

Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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Offer Constructive Feedback

Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

How to Develop This Skill

Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

As the African proverb goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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