The Startup Education: Decision Making

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September 29, 2012 by chriszumtobel

I’m going to be adding a new segment (is it a segment on a blog? Topic of writing I guess?) to the blog, called The Startup Education.  Each post will be regarding something I have learned through the failures or successes of my startup company and here is the first one!

Now, there are many things I have done wrong with my startup clothing company, Branch Clothing, (which is why none of you have heard of it yet) but if I had to name our biggest time waster, it would without a doubt, be decision making. And I don’t mean making the wrong decisions. Wrong decisions are progress. No decision or slow decisions, on the other hand, have been our real problem.

Any and every decision: logo, business cards, product design, price, on and on and on… I can’t even begin to tell you how much time and money is wasted just because we don’t want to make a decision due to worry we will have to change it later, hypothetically costing us time and money. But our indecisiveness is costing us much more than just time and money, it has cost us progress. We waste time trying to design the perfect logo, that we each love, or the exact price that everyone feels is fair. But why? How hard is it to change a logo? Or lower a price? Companies do it all the time!

You can’t get everything right the first time, and every decision may not be a step forward, but because you will learn from your mistakes, it will still be a step in the right direction!

The solution to indecision, at least in our case, is to get rid of the democracy of everything. Input is great, but listen to that input and make your decision. If it is a real team effort, then delegate decision making in different fields to different team members. One person is in charge of all decisions regarding the web site and the graphic design, while another is in charge of all product design and branding decisions. Each of them still listens to the opinions of everyone, but when it comes down to it, they make the decision and everyone stands by it. If it lasts, then wonderful, and if not then you try something else, but at least you are not stuck at a standstill.

I used to look to approval from my business partner for every decision, only moving forward after we could come to a mutually agreed upon next step. I grew tired of waiting for responses or having an idea shot down without another viable option and I have begun to make the decisions on my own. If I make a mistake I own up to it, but I also learn from it, adjusting on the fly and no longer making drawn out team decisions but instead making quick, flexible decisions.

If you are working with a business partner, then talk with them about this. A teammate can be necessary for the success of a project, but is your teammate (or team) helping or are they actually a hindrance? Is there a clear leader? Not necessarily a clear leader of the project in general, but a head decision maker of individual aspects of the project. Have someone with the power to say “This is what we are going to do.” You don’t want to turn into our bickering United States Congress, you need to continue to make Progress and that requires a direction, which calls for a decision from a single, confident decision maker.

Do you agree? How do you run your business?

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