How to Make Big Decisions in a Small Business
Sometimes the choices we make have huge implications. For example; when we choose our target market, our business location, our business model, or our brand identity. These are not simply preferences, they are strategically important choices. So, how would a small business go about making Big Decisions?
First, consider whether the decision you are about to make is an “Executive” decision or an “Operational” one.
Operational decisions deal with processes, details, functions and individuals. They are often time limited.
Executive decisions deal with strategies, tactics, concepts and groups, plus they have profound implications beyond the current situation. One way to select items for executive discussion is to ask, “Is this a strategic discussion or could it be considered ‘committee work’ that could be handled separately?” When it’s committee work it can be explored and then brought back to the executive team for a firm commitment, otherwise it eats up precious time.
Want your meetings to end on time for a change? Don’t let the executive discussions degrade into operational ones. And don’t let the operational discussions get bogged down in reconsidering the strategic priorities.
Another way to think about Big Decisions is to remember that, “When you choose a road you have also chosen its destination.” In other words, all of the limitations and possibilities that go with that path are yours by default when you take that approach.
For example: if you choose a newspaper as your primary advertising medium, you will get a perishable product. The daily papers are seldom kept on hand. Tomorrow your ads and articles are gone, so they’d better work the first time, unless you’re buying an ad campaign to refresh the offer each day.
On the other hand, by choosing a billboard as your medium you have selected only the people who see that billboard as your potential buyers.
By comparison a sponsorship of a team would limit you to the fans of that team and attendees at their events.
Likewise the selection of a business model brings unique issues. If you sell through affiliates then they are your sales force. You must train, orient and equip them to represent you well, and you must continually motivate them otherwise sales will dry up. But they do eliminate the usual overhead costs of an internal sales force.
Selecting a brand name is another biggie. Suppose you were a start up and had chosen a name like Amazon, Google or Yahoo. You might rationalize that those are mega-successes so the name type must be a good one. But none of these names indicates the nature of their business, so you’d have to continually communicate your message to your markets until the new identity was established. This could be a very expensive process.
Once your big decisions have been made, carve them in stone in the minds of your team. Make sure that the brand you have chosen is fully understood by all of your coworkers. Sell and resell your mission statement and business description to them. Assure that they answer the questions about your business in the same ways that you would. Teach them to ‘sing the company tune’ so to speak. When all are in harmony business expands.
Explain why your small business model is the right one for this time and place. Identify your target markets and ideal customer so clearly that everyone knows a prospect when they see one. Make sure your policies are compatible with your mission and purpose. The culture of your company will evolve from these
Big Decisions and culture in many ways determine your future.
Consider the culture at: Facebook, Disney, Starbucks, and Apple. In each case, the people who work there clearly understand who their customers are, what kind of relationship they are seeking with them, how they help them and what makes it profitable.
Now, you have a Big Decision to make. Will you discuss these items with your leadership team? I hope so.