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Decision making in a startup - A letter to the CEO

The start up world is dynamic, full of strange situations that require smart decisions. Some managers, who barely have the requisite entrepreneurial experience are forced to face these situations alone. The fact that the majority of inexperienced leaders make decisions intuitively, makes them feel that perhaps it is not the best way to go about it, and the second-guessing sometimes leads to even weaker results.

Making decisions  in a startup is relatively difficult compared to an established business. It is likely because startups require a lot of leadership intelligence in order to change the game. Established businesses don’t need to manouver as quickly to remain in business. How do you design your products and services to meet changing customer demands? This is the type of question that startup leaders are faced with.  A myriad of decisions must be taken before you can even start to play against the big guys.

As with any other business, all startups have a decision maker known as the CEO. He or She builds the team and acts as the visionary of the organization. She is also the  liaison and acts as the company’s ambassador. She presides over company meetings and often has final decision making power, not the board of directors. At many startups, the individual who is going to act as CEO is not clearly defined. This makes it harder for the organization to remain focused and driven.

Some decisions are really brutal for the CEO, such as the need to cut significant staff, take a pay cut, change the messaging of the company, or even going after different customers and sales channels. I suggest as follows:

  1. Do not fear black and white decisions. Sometimes it is the only way to set a determined direction, despite the risks. Hoping to stay a little bit longer in the gray area and the problem will go away is not a decision.
  1. Make the decision quickly. Sometimes it’s all about making a decision. You may not sleep for a few nights while worrying you made the wrong call but still, don’t hesitate. Chances are the sun will still rise tomorrow.
  1. Give yourself more credit as a manager - you'll know very quickly if you’ve made the wrong decision and if so, you are capable of fixing it.

There comes a point in time in which the CEO, despite his preference to reach a concensus and despite his respect for his co-founders, needs to take charge of the critical decisions about the product and how it is sold. If you’re that person, then step up.