Information Makes Decision-Making Easy

Feb 3, 2014, Written by Sue Miley

decision makingWhen my business started to grow a couple of years ago,  I began to feel stretched trying to balance everything at work and at home. To help, my husband offered to start paying all of our bills.

Here’s the true story…

He has this rule that if you are paying the bills, you handle all things financial.  It is all or nothing with him.  Honestly, I am a little control freakish about finances and I didn’t want to give up control.

At the point I was at, I was doing a terrible job trying to manage it all.  It got done, but I was stressing too often.   I was ready to give it to him.

Many years ago, he used to pay the bills.  When I was getting ready to hand it off to him, I began to remember why I took it to begin with.

He paid bills on one day per month.  On that day, he paid everything, whether it was due or past due.  Whether we had the money or we didn’t have the money.

Stuck, Stalled, and Frozen

I panicked at the thought and stalled again.

But I was still stressed all of the time.  He was losing sympathy.  “I told you I would help and take all of the personal bills and finances.”

I told him my hesitance.

He didn’t even pretend that he would do it differently.  He agreed and said that is probably right.  So I didn’t give it to him.

I wanted to but I couldn’t stand the thought of late payment fees hitting every month.  That seemed ridiculous when we were certainly able and capable of paying all of our bills on time.

One morning, in the midst of my complaining, he made a point that provided new insight.  He said, “What if I cost us $100 a month in late fees?”  I said that was ridiculous.  We don’t need to have any late fees.

“I know, but what if we did.  But you could work a couple of hours more per week because you don’t have to mess with any of our finances.  And you have more peace of mind because I am worrying about it all and not you.”

I looked at him like it was a trick.

The Right Information Changes Everything

I guess I never considered analyzing the decision.  If I worked 2 more hours per week every week of a month I would bring in substantially more than the $100 per month in late fees.  Plus, I wouldn’t have that burden of our finances completely on my shoulders.

$100 per month was cheaper than weekly therapy too!

It was a no brainer.

I had been struggling over the decision for at least 6 months.

A little information and analysis and the decision was made for me.

Do you have situations in your business that if you just gathered the facts and analyzed them, the decision would be a “no brainer”?

2 Types of Information for Better Decision-making

I find there are two different forms of information that are important:

  1. Quantitative – data or analysis that provided answers to profitability of a decision or measurable improvements that could result from a decision.
  2. Qualitative – information that provides insights from our team, our customers, our vendors, or other expert opinion.

Examples of Quantitative Information for Decision-making

Here are some examples that may further illustrate the point regarding quantitative data:

  • If you had reports that provided you with the profitability of each type of service you offer it would be an easy decision to drop unprofitable services from your offering.
  • If you had research that showed that a new software system could replace 3 other pieces of software in your company that added up to more expense each month, it would be much easier to decide on the new purchase.
  • If you had an analysis that said that your backlog in the service department could fully support another full-time employee and that each full time service tech provided added profit to your bottom-line, it would be much easier to add the additional employee.

These examples are all about finances.  Sometimes it is not a financial decision.

Examples of Qualitative Information for Decision-making

There are other types of decisions that are easier with qualitative information.

  • Gathering reviews of various software applications, seeing demos, and having references to discuss their experience, makes the purchase decision much easier.
  • Hearing the perspectives of all managers on a major policy violation by staff provides more information to decide on any actions.
  • Having a survey completed by customers provides more information to make product feature changes.

Sometimes your team comes to you, the owner, for a decision without bringing the appropriate information needed to make a wise decision.  As small business owners we are in the habit of feeling like it is up to us to just intuitively know the “best” decision.  And we have probably trained our team to just hand it over to us without doing the leg work.

Then they are soon frustrated because we stall.  We stall because we don’t really have any information to base the decision on.  It is a vicious circle.

Easier, Faster, and Better Decisions

The next time a decision comes your way, tell the decision requester to gather the additional information you need to make an informed decision.  Explain that the decision will be much quicker with the information.

It basically comes down to making wise decisions with information or guessing.

Information makes decision-making a lot easier.

  • How easy is it to get information in your business?
  • What decisions have you stuck, stalled or frozen right now?
  • How can you get more information?

Full Disclosure…

In full disclosure, I took the bill paying back this month after a year.  Honestly, the qualitative information/input provided from my kids when the water, cable and internet all were turned off in a 30 day period made it an easy decision.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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