Making decisions despite uncertainty

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There are no truly “right” answers when we operate in the real world. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, once you’ve made a decision, hindsight can be 20/20.

However, when you set out to make big, strategic decisions you’re inevitably going to have to work through uncertainty.

On top of this, as a business owner, if you pick the wrong path you might waste months or years of your life, not to mention you’ll probably waste money as well.

It can feel like the stakes are high and, often they are.

Before you know it, you might be afraid to make any decision at all. I’ve certainly been there.

I distinctly remember feeling lost when I was first starting out because there were so many different directions I could take my business and my career. I could become a photographer, a marketer, a co-founder of a startup, or the founder of a media company… but I couldn’t do them all at once.

In Seth Godin’s podcast, Startup School, I distinctly remember a woman sharing with Seth the fact that she, too, had many directions she wanted to go in. Seth’s response was,

“Picking nothing is guaranteed not to work.”

Yikes.

Indecision can be more costly than making the wrong choice.

So, here’s how I have learned to approach choosing a strategy in my business:

First, look at the market data:

  • How does the system (i.e. sector) work that you’re building your business in? 
  • Are there competitors for what you’re trying to do?
  • If so, what have competitors done to thrive?
  • If there aren’t competitors, is it a blue ocean or is there a compelling reason why they don’t currently exist?
  • Where are your customers at, i.e., what events do they go to/where do they hang out?
  • What information should you be trying to gather?
  • Are there any organizations you can partner with?
  • Is there anything you can learn from other industries that could be applied to a new industry in a creative way?
  • Is there a niche you can capture in a larger market to stand out and command a higher price?
  • What are the highest impact activities you can be doing to move your business forward?

Based on this, analyze the various directions you can go in, especially in regards to how you spend your time and your money. 

Also, take the time to do some self-reflection (this is actually where we start in the Figure Your Sh*t Out accelerator & I talk about it in the free Figure Your Sh*t Out guide as well):

  • What are your priorities in life?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • How much money is “enough?”
  • What type of environment do you want to work in?
  • What are your strengths?
  • If you’ve built a team, what are their strengths?
  • etc.

It doesn’t hurt to be exploring your own personal priorities every 90-days. If you’re a solopreneur and choosing your business model, I highly recommend you make sure you choose a path you’re passionate about, so much so that you’re driven to be “the best” at whatever it is you’re setting out to do. Passion is a solid foundation for the grit needed to build a business that works.

Force yourself to pick a strategy for the next 90-days. I recommend choosing no more than 3-5 key things you want to accomplish that are important, but not necessarily urgent. Seriously, keep. it. simple.

Put away your concerns about the next 10-years for now and get granular about what’s more important for you and your business in the near future. Make it clear to yourself and anyone you’re working with what things are a priority. 

Don’t ignore your intuition. If you start going down a path & your gut tells you it’s the wrong one, listen to it.

Find a schedule and flow for your work that works well for you. When building a business, execution is key.

Each week, reflect on whether you’re on the right track. At the end of the 90-days, analyze the results of your work and reflect on what’s working/where you need to make changes. 

…and then adjust accordingly. 

It’s simple, but not easy. 

If you decide you need to pivot in a different direction, I find it helpful to reflect on everything that I learned thus far that will inevitably help me to get to where I want to go.

Without a doubt, you’ll get the strategy wrong sometimes… but what would happen if you got it right? 

PS – I just stumbled upon this amazing transcript of the Startup School podcast. If you want to read about Seth’s advice on this topic, start at page 43. He has some especially great advice on life design on page 44.