These 11 entrepreneurs, all members of The Oracles, have reached the top of their game in large part by making better decisions faster than anyone else. We’ve asked each of them for their tips on how to make decisions rapidly—and stick to them.
1. Sometimes good enough is perfect.
At 19 years old, my first mentor Joel Salatin said, “Tai, sometimes good enough is perfect.” He meant that when you only seek perfection, you miss the time element. Sometimes you just have to make a call and say, “This is good enough.”
You’re launching a new product. You’re manufacturing something. You’re thinking of writing a book or an article. You’re presenting a pitch. You’re doing some marketing. Once you start hitting something that’s six, seven or eight out of 10, you need to release. Remember what Mark Zuckerberg says: “If things aren’t breaking, you aren’t going fast enough.”
If that scares you, just remember: All entrepreneurs you’re competing with are facing the same time constraint. If they go too slow and you act quickly, you win.
2. Decide to escape the status quo.
When we refuse to decide, that’s a decision. When I get stuck, I ask myself, Am I going to continue with the status quo, or move forward? All decisions have a cost associated with them. Usually what holds me back is either fear or a lack of information. Get the data you need and never fear betting on yourself.
—Grant Cardone is a top sales expert who has built a $500 million real estate empire, a New York Times best-selling author of How to Create Wealth Investing in Real Estate, and founder of the 10X Growth Con. Follow Cardone on Facebook or YouTube
3. Set your long-term vision.
Spend as much time as you need figuring out your long-term vision. Because after you have a clear vision, all the smaller, day-to-day decisions are much easier. You’ll learn that each little decision you make is either moving you in the right direction or will be an important lesson you needed to learn in order to achieve your vision.
—Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva, brought her company’s valuation to $40 billion in September 2021
4. Take your time (seriously).
I’ve learned not to let anyone rush me when a big decision comes my way. I don’t mean that you should procrastinate indefinitely. But I’ve learned that the speed of business in this world often makes us feel the pressure to make a decision faster than we should. I have experienced a great deal of respect and understanding from colleagues and competitors when I say: “You will have my answer when I am goddamned good and ready.”
—Roberto Orci is a Hollywood producer and screenwriter
5. Map out why, how and what.
It’s much easier to make decisions when you’re abundantly clear on what you’re trying to achieve, why you’re trying to achieve it and how you plan on achieving it. Your mission (why), values and strategy (how), and metrics (what) serve as guidance, bumper lanes and filters to your decision-making. With this foundation, many questions answer themselves, which is arguably faster than time spent engaged in exhaustive debate or mental wrangling. After building this foundation, I began making decisions many times faster.
6. Understand the root cause of your hesitation.
Ask whether your hesitation is due to fear (not being prepared or capable) or anxiety (not feeling prepared or capable). If it’s fear, proceed with one easy-to-accomplish step at a time. Learn from each and iterate quickly. This gives you progress to learn from and time to acclimate, allowing you to build true confidence. If it’s anxiety, then jump into a position where you have to execute without the luxury of time to overthink. Make a public commitment. Accept the project you are anxious about. Burn your boats.
This was how I started MavenWire, by handing in my resignation to my boss and creating an environment where I had to leverage my talents to succeed. I knew I was capable and needed to leapfrog over my fear.
—Chris Plough,entrepreneur advisor and serial entrepreneur
7. Abandon the pursuit of perfect.
Being decisive is about making choices, measuring feedback and learning fast. Unfortunately, analysis paralysis affects many entrepreneurs, and “perfect” becomes the enemy of “good enough to test.” There are no perfect plans and no perfect decisions; make educated choices, adapt, modify and overcome.
8. Make big decisions in 5 to 10 minutes.
I have always gone with my gut instinct on business decisions and moved rapidly when I see an opportunity. Although it could look like I jump out of the airplane and figure out how to build my parachute on the way down, it actually goes much deeper. My past experiences and gut instinct together allow me to gauge the risk and decide to go for it or walk away. I never sleep on an idea. Instead, I give myself a short timeline of five to 10 minutes to process the information. Next, I evaluate what might be the best possible outcome, followed by the worst possible scenario. I ask myself, Can I live with either outcome? If the answer is yes, I move quickly. If the answer is no, I walk away.
9. Break down decisions into smaller pieces.
In all of my businesses, we move fast and make decisions even faster. But we make calculated decisions. We break down big decisions into several smaller decisions so that we can test, evaluate and modify if need be. If it involves a new product or service, we’ll look at historical data from similar products or services we have created, break it down into the minimal viable product that we’d need in order to test it, and then poll our customer database to test our idea. If it’s a new marketing campaign, we’ll just split test it against a winning campaign for a minimal investment before launching it. By breaking decisions down into several smaller decisions, it reduces our risk and allows us to adjust quicker.
— Gary Nealon, president of Nealon Solutions and Usawa.io. His company RTA Cabinet Store spent five consecutive years on the Inc. 5000 list
10. Evaluate the best and worst that can happen, and then don’t look back.
Start by evaluating What’s the worst that can happen? and What’s my ultimate desired outcome? Then, make a decision and sink or swim with the ship. Burn the ships at sea and do what you have to do to see your decision through win or lose. At least you made a decision. Being an entrepreneur means you’re a leader and no one wants to see the leader be wishy-washy. Speed is power!
11. Eliminate small decisions from your life.
Remove little decisions so that you can focus on big decisions. Don’t waste your valuable mental energy on small things. Consider outsourcing to experts: Hire a chef or a healthy meal delivery service so you don’t have to decide what to eat on a daily basis. Steve Jobs (when he was alive) and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same outfits every single day in order to utilize every drop of their mental energy on the big stuff and not dilute it through things such as, What should I wear today? Are you getting bogged down deciding what furniture to get? Hire an interior designer and be done with it.
— Phil Suslow, owner of Oznium
This article was published in January 2017 and has been updated. Photo by Juice Flair/Shutterstock