“In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.” – Oscar Wilde
One of the determining factors in whether a business succeeds or not is the decisions made by those in control. I imagine there are cases where things hit such amazing alignment that the management of a business never had to make a tough decision, but I promise you that this is a rare condition. In most business the managers constantly need to make difficult decisions that have significant impact (what business model do we use? is this market worth going after? should we enter this parternership?). Given that these are decisions that need to make, how do they choose one path over another?
When I first started in business it was my belief that successful managers just knew more than the rest of us. They had all the info, and that’s how they made the right decisions. As I’ve tried more things and talked to more people I’ve learned that more often than not this is not the case. Typically, decisions are being made based on opinions; these nasty things we all have which can sound like fact, but are not actually grounded in proof. It is tough to qualify where our opinions come from; they are a collection from a myriad of sources and influences, but somehow we can all look at a given issue and choose one view or another.
There is nothing wrong with having an opinion, and in fact they are necessary to allow you to execute. If you waited on fully justifiable evidence for every decision that needed to be made in your business I don’t think you could ever get past which coffee to buy for the office let alone actually acquire customers. As I’ve come to realize this, I’ve learnt to embrace my own opinions. When a decision needs to be made, if possible the time should be made to research the decision as much as possible. In some cases, however, time is not a luxury we can afford and a decision needs to be made quickly. Either way ,when it does come time to make that decision, you will never have all the facts. You will be making an educated guess about the right way to proceed.
If you went to every customer , advisor, and investor you went to and had to qualify every statement you made with “I think”, or “maybe”, then you probably won’t come across as a very confident entrepreneur. Instead, I’ve found the most successful strategy for myself is to not be afraid of changing an opinion. If I believe something, I will argue for it with full gusto, right up until I change my mind. When I change my mind I will unabashedly reverse course and move onto the next thing. I find this to be a much more effective strategy than the irrational stubbornness or weakness of position that are the only other options I’ve found to resolve this problem.
I know this trait of mine leaves some of those I work with frustrated at times. I don’t think they can understand how I can hold a position so strongly and then so quickly abandon it to hold my next position just as strongly. I think they expect after being wrong so many times I would lose the confidence in my unjustifiable positions. The reality is that I’ve simply come to terms with the fact that I never have all the data, and all I can do is form the best opinions I can at any given time. If the information I have changes and I need to change my position, I change it and move on.