Using Good Data Will Lead You to the Right Decision
Do you prefer making decisions quickly, or do you believe in taking more time? Do you have more time? Business decisions are a matter of profit or loss.
James L Katzaman
Time to decide: Do you prefer making decisions quickly, or do you believe in taking more time? Indeed, do you have more time?
Making better business decisions is a matter of profit or loss — success or failure. In a small business, what will you say to the person in the mirror?
Entrepreneurs find that even the smallest choices can have far-reaching implications as Pierre DeBois, Ivana Taylor and Iva Ignjatovic will attest. Each has reached crossroads and pressed ahead — pretty much unscathed.
DeBois, founder of Zimana Analytics, is an analytics and business intelligence writer. He has also been an associate editor of business book reviews for Small Business Trends.
Taylor owns DIYMarketers, “committed to helping small business owners get out of overwhelm.” Ignjatovic is a marketing, strategy and business consultant.
Important business decisions often come down to relying on data or going with your gut.
“Data confirms suspicions,” DeBois said. “Yet, it also outlines insights that would not be noticed without a degree of analysis.”
There is often not a clean break between the two forces.
“I’ve noticed that I need time to process data and information,” Taylor said. “Then at some point my gut decides. I think that data is a part of it. However, you don’t often have data for personal decisions.”
An Oberlo survey found that 38 percent of small business owners say discipline — which feeds into decisions — is needed to have an entrepreneurial mindset.
“It’s all about data, no doubt,” Ignjatovic said. “However, there is a small percentage of decisions when I put aside data and logic and go with what feels right.”
From Little to Bigger
Seemingly small decisions made years earlier can have a huge impact on business or life.
“I picked my college major almost at random,” Taylor said. “Here I am 40 years later still at it.”
One of DIYMarketers’ key messages concerns how to organize your finances and make better business decisions.
“I accepted a gig,” Ignjatovic said. “A marketing agency was organizing a local celebrity wedding, and they needed someone to organize a playroom for the kids. After that, they hired me for more projects, and here I am.”
Sorting out resources also can help before making decisions. Hootsuite addresses organizing in its article, “How to Manage YouTube Comments: Viewing, Moderating, Replying and More.”
“Right before a big decision, I get very clear about my reasons for choosing and my reasons for rejecting other options,” Taylor said.
Security also factors into decisions. A Small Business Trends survey found that 43 percent of cyber attacks target small businesses. Sixty percent of businesses close their doors within six months of being hacked.
“Yet, very few small businesses pay attention to cybersecurity,” Ignjatovic said. “As for me, there’s no big decision moment. I decide based on my previous assessment. I don’t have doubts or second thoughts.”
Taylor said a good business decision supports a person’s vision, goals and soul. She noted that the DIYMarketers’ website recommends best competitive analysis books for small businesses.
“A good business decision has a plan — and action plan,” Ignjatovic said. “It’s backed by a solid strategy, and it can be accomplished.”
Systems Counteract Regrets
Second thoughts after making decisions are not uncommon but can be kept to a minimum.
“Having robust sales processes help protect your business from entertaining ideas that are really out of scope — the projects you’ll regret later,” DeBois said.
Taylor prefers to play a mental exercise.
“The best way to avoid regrets is to pretend that I’ve taken the other option and live with it for a while,” she said. “Usually, I’m very clear after that.
“Pitfalls are necessary,” Taylor said. “How can you learn to make good decisions if you don’t learn from your mistakes? The key is to not beat yourself up if things turn out not the way you planned. You did the best with what you had.”
One major decision involves technology. Semrush research has found that 65 percent of small businesses are more likely to invest in technology such as artificial intelligence for automation.
That kind of resource allocation might be daunting, but Ignjatovic refuses to dwell on what might have been.
“When I make a bad business decision I own it, learn and move on,” she said. “We’re not talking about ‘Sophie’s Choice’ type of decision. It’s business. Decisions can be uncomfortable but difficult.”
Even decisions that are not life changing have great rewards.
“The most difficult decision I had to make was to rebuild my website,” Taylor said. “It took me months looking at alternatives. Yet, once the decision was made, I was good with it.
“I’ve also left big corporate positions, and it was so worth it for me,” she said. “I recognize that I’m lucky — my husband has the primary job in the family.”
Haste Makes Bad Judgments
Big or small, good decisions should not be rushed.
“Taking time is essential to identify data and insights that can aid long-term development for products or services that serve customers well,” DeBois said.
The Live Your Message website run by Marisa Murgatroyd has found that with the impact of COVID-19, more than half of U.S. businesses say they’ve increased online interactions with their customers and clients. That leads to ever more decision making.
“For most part, I decide rather quickly,” Taylor said. “I typically take time to understand what I’m accepting and what I’m rejecting with my choices.”
Although more information is good, there comes a time to move forward.
“Sometimes I need more data to make a final decision, but I’m usually quick, and I’m good at it,” Ignjatovic said. “Probably that’s why I perform well in time-sensitive situations.
“If I can, I’ll use all the time I have to assess everything before I make my final decision,” she said.
Whatever the decision, it entails a certain amount of risk.
“Risks are meant to level-set expectations, to prevent you from overselling an idea, committing resources to something that is not well executed,” DeBois said.
The most common strategic planning technique is a SWOT analysis, which helps people or organizations identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to business competition or project planning.
“There’s always some element of risk involved,” Taylor said. “I’ve found that many risks can be mitigated with a good plan — as well as money.”
Keep Options Open
Smart business planners usually have a Plan B, C and D in their back pockets.
“Have you ever heard people say to not have a Plan B?” Taylor said. “The idea is to keep you aiming high. I get that, but I still tend to create a Plan B and C and D sometimes.
“One thing I learned is that most businesses care about knowing how to run and manage a business than knowing a technical skill,” she said.
Risks are not only vital elements but also teaching moments.
“The best way to learn is from someone else’s experience — in this case mistakes,” Ignjatovic said. “People might try something else and pull through.”
In a sense, people have been hardwired with preconceived notions or biases that inhibit them from making sound decisions.
“That’s a resounding yes,” Taylor said. “When we transform beliefs about how things are to facts, you’re bound to make a bad decision sometime.”
Longtime influences are particularly troublesome to shake.
“Most of the time that’s true,” Ignjatovic said. “People are shaped by their experiences and emotions. That’s more bias that we need, which is why we rely on data and artificial intelligence to mitigate bias.
“Although I’ve made poor decisions, I’ve never had a streak of bad ideas or decisions,” she said.
Often the underlying problem is not bad luck but rather execution.
“I’ve found it’s not the idea that’s bad,” Taylor said. “It’s my implementation and commitment to the implementation that’s usually the culprit.”
In the end, that’s the deciding factor.
James L Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a charter member of the Tealfeed Creators' program, focusing on marketing and its benefits for companies and consumers. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as subscribing here on Tealfeed.