Thursday, 20 October 2011 10:17

There is No Such Thing as a ‘Bad Decision’ in Business

Written by Staff

First let me say that there is no “right” answer to most of the challenges a collision owner faces today. Things that worked in the past will no longer cut it today and we need to constantly re-invent the wheel. I will give some examples of ways to cautiously move forward in today’s market.

One example is advertising, in the past we would get a bigger yellow page ad, and maybe we would do newspaper and maybe some TV. In today’s market the consumer rarely picks up the phone book and newspaper sales are at an all time low, while TV is still questionable with DVR’s people can fast forward through your expensive 30-second commercial.

Another example is purchasing equipment and your ROI. In the past a shop would buy a thirty thousand dollar frame rack or measuring system and they would be able to close a sale based on something they had that their competitors didn’t. Today, repair standards and requirements to repair a collision have become so advanced that most decent collision facilities have the same equipment. So purchasing a large piece of equipment in today’s market most of the time offers “no” return on your investment.

Decision-making is the key to business success, and there is “no such thing as a bad decision.” As businessmen we decided to venture out on our own and start or purchase a business. No one gave us any guarantees or security blankets. We made the decision and went for it. I know I went for broke. No one stood behind me. I was on my own and I had to make decisions every moment that would set the direction of the future of my company. There was no road map then and there isn’t one now.

I have learned that when I make a decision I need to make it based on the information I have at the time. We don’t have a crystal ball to see the future but many of us tend to beat ourselves up when these decisions don’t pan out. I always remember this because, when I think back, I would normally make the exact same decision if I had the exact same information at the time. In other words, all else being equal, I wouldn’t change the decisions that I’ve made in the past.

When we hire a new technician, for example, we check all their references and make sure they have all of the required training. Some turn out to be our worst nightmare. But that decision to hire someone was based on the information we had at the time. We needed someone and we hired them. We only know much later that it was the wrong person. Hiring was a good decision—but the wrong person may have been hired. So, not making a decision is the only wrong decision here. We could never have known this tech was right or wrong unless we had ventured out and made a decision to hire them.

All business challenges require decision-making—that’s our job—embrace it because its what we do. It’s who we are. Another name for a businessman should be “Master Decision Maker.” I say this because if someone asks me what my job description was I would say more than anything else its making decisions, and they are all good.

In the past we made advertising decisions based on information we had then. The younger generation are all iPhone and internet savvy now and never pick up a phone book or newspaper so we are changing our advertising plans to accommodate this high-tech future generation. We just canceled our last phone book ad. We do more “Marketing” and leave less to chance and we are not really sure of our final destination but we do know the direction has changed. Will this be a good decision? ‘Yes,’ based on the information we have at the time (now).

Similarly, we must continue to purchase major equipment (to keep up with vehicle technology), but we are no longer expecting a return on our investment. We treat it as a liability like a rent increase—something that we can’t do anything about but we need to deal with, and this forces us to run a leaner operation.

In retrospect, I made a decision to expand my operation at the worst possible time, but when the decision was made it was based on the best information I had at the time. Many would say it was the wrong decision—who would expand in the middle of a recession? The answer is “no one,” not even “me,” but I didn’t know there was a recession when I expanded and, given the same set of circumstances, I would make the same decision again because it was a good decision. So remember there is no such thing as a “bad decision in business” because that’s what we do. ‘Not deciding’ is not an option.

With this in mind, it may be time to go back to the drawing board and re-invent yourself. As the leader of your company take charge and make those tough decisions quickly and matter-of-factly based on the information you have at the time. Don’t look back and never second-guess yourself. Once you make a decision, move forward to the next decision—like firing that tech you now wish you hadn’t hired (because of the information you have now that you didn’t have before.)

Think of yourself as a General leading your troops into battle. You need them to trust your decisions and follow you. No one wants to follow someone that is indecisive and insecure. If you don’t trust your own decision making, how can you expect anyone else to trust it and follow your lead?

And quit beating yourself up (about events that turned out differently in hindsight)!