The Buck Stops Here
As a business owner or manager, the buck stops with us. What do I mean by that? It means that being able to make decisions effectively is important to the success of our businesses. As a teenager, I remember visiting my father at his office one day. He was the chief financial officer of a large credit union with many branches and thousands of employees.
The Decision Maker
He was busy looking at the NHL scores from the night before, and I slyly commented, “You don’t have to work?” He said, “Of course I do!” I asked why he wasn’t busy doing spreadsheets or crunching numbers. He pointed to the floor full of accountants outside his office and said, “That’s what they do.”
I said, “Well, what do you do then?”
He replied, “I make the decisions and am responsible for them. If we lose $100 million because of my decision, I lose my job.”
That has always stuck with me over the years. In positions of authority, such as a business owner or manager, we need to be leaders to our teams and the decision makers for our businesses.
Over the years, I have found the following guidelines have helped me make better decisions:
1. Take Emotions Out of it
Letting emotions get the best of us can compromise our decision-making abilities. For our industry, I found the two situations that always triggered emotions were difficult customers/clients and employees. It took me many years to learn not to hastily decide in a moment of anger or frustration and to think out the consequences of my decision thoroughly. An example of analyzing consequences would be:
• A customer is being difficult with unreasonable demands on work we did.
o Immediate reaction/decision: Tell them to screw off and never come back.
o Consequence of rash decision: Bad online review, bad word of mouth in a small town, customer embellishes situation to others, etc.
2. Learn From Mistakes or Poor Decisions
I have long said and encouraged the phrase Make a Rule. When a mistake happens, or I make a poor decision, what rule can I make so that I never have the issue happen again?
• A basic example of this might be: After an installer pulls a car out and accidentally hits the mirror on the edge of the building, then the new shop rule is that all mirrors have to be folded in, and a second person needs to guide the driver out. If I were to say, “Guys, you have to be more careful and always double-check you aren’t going to hit the mirrors,” I would probably see it happen again.
3. Admit Poor Decisions
I have been guilty of never admitting to a poor decision over the years. For some reason, I felt it showed weakness and a lack of leadership. I’ve realized that it actually is the opposite. It shows arrogance and keeps us from learning and growing when we can’t admit fault. Everyone makes mistakes and wrong decisions. It isn’t just admitting to it, though—it is then learning from it and analyzing why we made that decision and what we could have done differently if presented with that opportunity again.
4. Empower Your People to Make Decisions
I use a four-step cycle for growing employees and hopefully getting the best out of them:
• Set expectations;
• Educate how to accomplish the expectation;
• Accountability for failing to meet the expectation;
• and discipline if needed.
I encourage my employees to learn to be autonomous and make good decisions (I am not trying to micro-manage everything). Using the four-step process I outlined above allows employees to grow and make decisions.
The Bottom Line
You have to accept the stress that comes with being the decision-maker. This is a huge part of being a successful business owner. Like my father said: “I am the one whose job is on the line if we lose $100 million.”
Make quality decisions, own them, and learn from the bad ones, and you will continue onward and upward.