Decision-Making in the Dark

One of the more uncomfortable things about being a startup founder is that most of the decision-making pressure in the early days will be completely on you. There is not going to be a team of leaders to make the tough calls. You are in charge and will need to do it. You will have to do your best to gather up the information you can get, search out advice from people you trust, and then make the call. If you believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities, this is going to be a lot easier. I can guarantee you won’t make the right decision every time, but if you can get the big ones correct then your business is going to be just fine.

Maybe you worked at a big company before starting your first business, like I did. I spent 15 years working at huge banks. If I wanted to do something new, I had a multi-month approval process with a committee of people to navigate. New initiatives were evaluated from every angle with a team of experts in operations, marketing, accounting, technology, and more. When I got into my first startup leadership role, I quickly learned I was on my own to make these calls. It was liberating but also a little scary. All of the sudden it was on me to evaluate all the issues, and I didn’t have experts to lean on like I did at the big banks. Embrace the good parts of this freedom and find help for the areas that you need it.

So how do you find the help you need? For first time founders, I recommend building up a group of experts that can help you. This can be employees, advisors, or contractors. I have used all in my startup life, and I have seen all three groups used effectively by other founders. If you need the skills daily, then make the hire. If it is only once a month or quarter, then an advisor is probably best. Somewhere in the middle? Probably you should find a contract employee or an outsource firm that can be available for you as you need. Work with these resources on the big decisions, collect the best advice you can get, and trust in your abilities to do what is right for the business.

I have talked in prior posts about the need to believe in yourself to be a successful startup founder. Decision-making with limited information is one of the big reasons this is important. If you are frozen by fear and self-doubt, it is going to be hard for you to make the difficult calls and keep the business moving. Remember that you have been successful in the past and have done the work to understand the challenges your business is facing. Make the call and know that you did the best thing possible. You don’t need to be perfect in your decisions, but you will need to be mostly correct on the big calls that matter the most. You can do it! Believe in yourself.

Thanks for reading today’s post, hopefully this prepares you for the challenge of making the calls that determine the success of your startup.

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