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How do you make key business decisions?

One of the biggest challenges small business owners and entrepreneurs face is learning how to think like a business owner. This is especially true if you’ve taken the path of starting your own MSP as a one-person shop, and growing from there. Along this path, there are multiple different mindset shifts that you need to go through, and how you approach the issue of decision making is one of them.

As you grow, you’ll have to delegate some decisions to other people. But ideally, you’ll want to know that they are as good as you are at making decisions. In part, that means getting to know your own approaches to decision making, improving those, and then transferring that knowledge. That way, when you hand over the keys to the help desk, for example, your help desk manager will be able to think through problems just as well as you do.

The Basic Process

The basic process for decision making is to identify the problem, evaluate possible solutions, and then choose the best one. Duh, right?

In the real world, this process is anything but basic. You won’t have all the information you need. You may not even understand the problem as well as you think. And you might not have the expertise or time to make the best choice. Worse yet is when you are aware of your limitations, and experience increased anxiety as a result, clouding your thought process. Decision making is messy at the best of times. 

Understanding the Problem

Try to diagnose problems in your own business the way you would your client presents problems to you. If you get a call and your client says “We moved some desks around and now the Internet doesn’t work”, you know you’re going to have to ask a few questions. Take that same troubleshooting approach to anything that even looks like a problem. (Chances are, if it looks like a problem, it is one.) Identify the surface level problem, and then dig deeper to find out the why - the deeper level problems underlying the surface. Generate hypotheses and, ideally, test them.

Evaluate Possible Solutions

Often, high level business problems don’t have just one root cause. This is actually good, because it allows you to attack the problem from multiple angles. For example, if profits declined last year, how much of that was losing that big client? How much of that was margin squeeze on backup? How much of that was losing three techs and having to replace them with inexperienced people, while paying your top techs a pile of overtime?

If you understand how much each potential root cause contributes to the overall problem, you can evaluate what impact different possible solutions will make.

Make Decisions

There’s a lot that goes into decisions. You could have data deficiency. Or maybe you have a lot of data, and it’s causing you analysis paralysis. Maybe you make decisions too quickly, or maybe you take way too long. The biggest thing at this stage is to really understand how you make decisions. Which decision-making style fits best with your approach?

Knowing your approach will help you avoid the common pitfalls of that approach.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be digging deeper into these and other issues surrounding decision making. As you continue to grow your MSP, you’ll want to learn all you can about how to make the best possible decisions, and that starts with understanding the mechanics of decision making.

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