June 21 2019 10:00 AM

Learn methods for testing your ideas so you’ll know if you’re making a solid decision.

One of the biggest challenges for any green industry business owner is learning a better a way of doing something and sticking with it. It’s always tempting to try a new approach to some aspect of our business, so we go for it. Initially, the new way works well and we implement it. We keep using it for a while, but eventually, for one reason or another we stop and go back to doing it the old way. Why does this happen?

One reason is that we haven’t stayed with the new way long enough to create a permanent behavior change. Yes, the new way is more efficient and gets better results, but the old way had some benefits too. Maybe the old way was easier or didn’t require as much thought. Regardless of the reason for going back to the old way, we must decide once and for all to stick with the new way, at least long enough until an even better way comes along.

Pick one new method of conducting some aspect of your business. Write it out on a 3×5 card, and post it in your office in plain sight. Commit to using this new method for 30 days and consistently use it for that length of time. At the end of the 30 days, decide if a permanent switch is warranted.

To help you decide, use the Ben Franklin method. Take out a sheet of paper, and at the top of the page, write down the decision you’re trying to make. Draw a line underneath that sentence; then draw another line down the middle of the page. At the top of the column on the left, write down the words, “Reasons for using the new way.” At the top of the column on the right, write down the words, “Reasons for not using the new way.”

Now write down as many reasons under each heading as you can think of. Let the column with the most reasons decide for you. On page 27, there's an example of a decision chart listing the pros and cons of implementing a new inventory system.

Franklin’s system can help make deciding easier. Writing down the “reasons for” and the “reasons against” something on paper allows you to see the matter objectively. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if a change is worth making in the long run.

There’s another method I share with my green industry clients that can help you make better decisions and stick with them. It was invented by business consultant Nido Qubein.

Before I share this method, let me preface it with a question: Have you ever been faced with a tough business decision, one that involved a substantial amount of risk? Perhaps it was a decision that wasn’t purely black or white but with several shades of gray to it — not an easy decision, but one that had to be made.

It’s often been said that with risk comes opportunity; the greater the risk, the greater the opportunity.

In order to make a good decision about an opportunity when it presents itself in the form of a risk, one needs to have a strategy. This is not the time to shoot from the hip or react without totally thinking things through; that could end badly. It takes a logical and balanced approach, one that allows you to look at the situation from a number of different angles, so you can make not just an intellectual choice but an emotionally balanced one too.

Use this decision-making approach when considering:

  • demoting a manager or employee.
  • terminating a manager or employee.
  • creating a new staff position.
  • investing in training or in coaching for your managers or employees.
  • raising the salary of a key manager or employee.
  • creating a new division or department.
  • making a major equipment purchase.
  • closing a branch location.
  • opening a new branch location.
  • moving your headquarters to a new facility or a different location.
  • entering a new market.
  • reducing your company’s menu of services or products.
  • expanding your menu of services or products.
  • raising your fees or prices.

Here is an excellent formula for making tough decisions involving a great deal of risk.

The first part consists of three questions you must ask yourself:

1. What is the best thing that could happen if I take this risk?

2. What is the worst thing that could happen if I take this risk?

3. What is the most likely thing that will happen if I take this risk?

Once you’ve answered those three questions, there are two more you must ask:

1. If the best thing happens, will it get me closer to my goals?

2. If the worst thing happens, could I live with it?

If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, then go for it. It’ll probably work out in your favor. But if you answered “no” to either one, do not go for it. It’ll most likely lead to poor results that you won’t be happy with and may even prove disastrous.

Approaching a tough, risky business decision by asking those five questions will

  • enhance your ratio of successes.
  • build your self-confidence in facing future challenges.
  • have you working smarter, not harder.
  • help you become an action-oriented leader.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you.

Example: implementing a new inventory system

Reasons for implementing it

  • It’s faster.
  • It’s more accurate.
  • It breaks things down into appropriate segments.
  • We can save it in our computer files.
  • We can e-mail it to the appropriate people.
  • It saves us time.
  • It makes us more efficient and profitable.

Reasons for not implementing it

  • We’re not completely familiar with it.
  • We’d have to read the manual.

Some of us don’t have the patience to learn it.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or tom@tomborg.com, or visit tomborgconsulting.com.