6 Ways to Make a Tough Decision

I wrote this years ago, but now this feels like a season of tough decisions. I hope this helps.

When you run a small business you are called upon to make hundreds of decisions both large and small, but sometimes there comes a tough decision you REALLY don’t want to make. It’s times like these that you could use an article and some long, complicated initials to help you get up the guts to make a decision… and this is THAT ARTICLE. 


Do a Pre-Postmortem 

We call this performing a PPM (Nobody calls it that) 

If you are a leader who can make knee jerk decisions based on emotion or a “whim” you may consider this technique to help with some perspective. 

A post mortem is looking back at something that went wrong and figuring out what caused it. A pre-postmortem is attempting to look at the choice you have now and diagnose it with a future perspective to see what could go wrong. 

Try to separate from the here and now and put yourself in the mindset of yourself 6 months, a year, even 5 years from now. Now think about how the future “you” will look at the decision you are about to make (or fail to make) and what the potential ramifications will be. 

Sometimes a tough problem becomes more clear when you can look back at it with future eyes. 


What if You Couldn’t Fail? 

You walk into the boardroom, and nail your presentation to the chairman of your largest customer. He looks over his glasses and asks, “Have you done a WIYCF analysis on this?”   

This is the opposite side of the spectrum from the PPM, if you are a leader who often lacks confidence or clarity or can be overwhelmed by fears, it may be helpful to think about what choice you would make if success was inevitable, what if you LITERALLY COULD NOT FAIL?

If you have ever met a leader who is abounding with confidence, it is often that they don’t consider the possibility of failure. This isn’t to say that they don’t fail…they just don’t acknowledge it when it happens and don’t let their mistakes reduce their confidence or forward momentum. When you make decisions from a “can’t fail” mindset you will often find a way to make the impossible possible. If you find yourself inhibited by fear, doubt and second-guessing you may want to focus on the WIYCF report. Heck, you may even become a reality TV star or President.


What Would Your Grandma Do? 

I often think of the wisdom of my Grandma Betty. She has lived well through getting married young, running a business, dealing with my Grandpa’s wild schemes, raising children and seeing countless cultural changes and wars come and go. While she may have no specific domain knowledge of my business, she has a good perspective on life in general. 

Often when I think about what she would do I am reminded that nothing is as horrible as it seems in the moment, and that a little patience and kindness goes a long way in solving life’s problems. What would your Grandma advise in this decision?


Who Wins? Who Loses?

When making a hard decision think about who the winners and losers are based on each option. I think about the three legs of the company stool as: profitability, employee morale, and customer satisfaction. Every decision I make has to take all three of these into account as well as benefit at least two of the three. 

Step back and think about how to make it a…wait for it …business cliche coming…a

“Win-win situation” 


Which Choice is Simpler?

Choose the simpler one. No initials required.  


Which Option Makes the Most People Smile For The Longest Period of Time?

Let’s ruin this concept by making up a corporate term for it. We will call it the “Time Average Mouth Corner Lift Factor” of TAMCLF.  

Business isn’t just about the numbers or the money, it really is about people and building relationships. Think about the choices you have to make and imagine the people who are most important to your business. Imagine the faces of your employees, partners, customers and your spouse and children. Are they smiling, or frowning? Will they be smiling or frowning a year from now once the decision has a chance to run its course?

This does not mean that business is a democracy or a popularity contest. Sometimes you will make decisions and other people will not like them, but it is still a HUMAN process that affects other HUMANS. 

When making a hard decision it is best to skim through, gather good advice, give yourself a deadline, seek simplicity and then MAKE THE DECISION. 

It only gets worse when you procrastinate. We call this the “Things Going Bad When You Procrastinate Coefficient” or TGBWYPC.   

 — Bryan

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