When is the best time to make an optimal decision?
Red or black? Stick or twist? Higher or lower? Heads or tails? The language of the gamble is familiar to all of us. Do you feel lucky?
In such strange times as we are experiencing, is there a good time to gamble?
Whilst rarely a question of ‘do or die’, our business decisions can resonate long after they are made. Such effects are not limited to us, but impact employees, business partners, other stakeholders – and our families. So, whilst we should avoid out and out gambling, it is commonplace in business to take some form of risk to evolve and move forward.
Arthur William Radford was a United States Navy Admiral, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Command and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: a man making important life or death decisions on a daily basis. He was quoted as saying “a decision is the action an executive must take when he has information so incomplete that the answer does not suggest itself”.
If information is incomplete (and it often is) and decisions must be made (which they often do) then risk is inherent in every business. This being the case, then when is the best moment to make those crucial business decisions?
Baron Rothschild, an 18th-century British nobleman and member of the Rothschild banking family, is credited with saying that “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”
Warren Buffet is famous for suggesting that it is wise to be “fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”
These quotes are often associated with the buying and selling of shares on the public stock markets, but do serve as poignant reminders that we should not be put off by making important decisions in times when the majority of folk are choosing to maintain the status quo or procrastinating. Both Rothschild and Buffet made substantial personal fortunes by making particularly deliberate decisions in times of crisis.
We support the thinking that the best time for a decision is when you know and understand your purpose! Only then can your decisions be based on, and in pursuance of, that purpose.
Review your business in the light of recent events. Has anything changed in terms of that purpose? Perhaps this is best discussed objectively with your fellow directors and advisers, rather than in the bubble of isolation. Only after careful consideration, with a sober mind and clear direction, can you commit or recommit to making your decisions through the lens of your core values, and the execution of your strategy and plans.
Then, whatever the outcome of your decision, you’ll know it was taken ‘on purpose’. You can take responsibility and enjoy the successes, or hold up your hands and learn from the failure. That’s what business people do.
In our experience, it is often worse to make no decision for fear of the wrong timing, than it may be to make a decision now – based on what you know at the moment, what you have learned from the past, and what you can expect from the future – and to act on it. Once you are clear about your purpose, then any time is the right time to make decisions for your business.
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