Business owners are required to make several decisions every day. The decisions that we are faced with run the gamut of the truly mundane to those that will have long term consequences for you, your business, and those around you. I would like to introduce you to four great qualities that I have found are essential for an entrepreneur to make good decisions.
- Know when to say thanks: This is something that may seem a bit old fashion, but when did we decide not use common courtesy as we conduct our business? Every truly successful person will tell you that their business would not be possible without the people around them and those who helped them in their formative years.
- Listen: Listening is something that is so basic in our society, yet in our ever increasingly narcissistic world, something that does not happen nearly enough. Here are just a couple of quick, easy tools that I try to use….
- Put the cell phone away
- Stop what you are doing
- Look people in the eye
- Clear your mind before you interact
- Think before you respond
- Ask great questions: After you have practiced those ever-important listening skills, take time to ask follow up questions before you reply or add to the conversation. By asking follow up questions, you are sending some very important messages to the person you are listening to.
- That you are indeed listening and that you are interested
- That you want to know more
- That you want to get it right
- Anticipate the unintended consequences of your decision: The ability to look beyond the moment is what separates the most effective people from the rest of the herd. While it is true that this is easier said than done, here are some tools that will help you look into the future and how your decision will impact those around you.
- Remind yourself why you are making this particular decision.
- Think about who this decision will affect immediately and directly.
- Ask yourself who will be a secondary beneficiary of your decision.
- Try to identify the worst thing that could happen as a result of your decision. Alternatively, ask yourself what is the best thing that can happen as a result of this particular decision.
- Identify what the on-going costs are of such a decision.
The truth is that we all need to pay attention to our customers, our employees, our suppliers, and the people that make a difference in our business. Thanks is truly a powerful word that will send a message to those around you; a message that you value their business, their ideas, and their loyalty.
Once you ask those follow up questions, you will have the ability to truly understand what they want to inform you of or ask of you. Once you have done that, you can go forth with more information which will allow you to make better decisions.
Clearly there are many other characteristics that are important in the process of decision making, but these are just a few of the ones that I feel are either forgotten or not used nearly enough. Perhaps the most important thought that I can leave you with today as you consider any decision is to remember to always be true to yourself.
Kurt Thompson is a Program Officer at the Southwest Initiative Foundation where he leads the Microloan and Entrepreneurship Programs. He also serves as business coach and mentor to small businesses by offering one-on-one technical assistance to loan clients.