When I look back at who I was just seven years ago, I am amazed at how much I've changed. For better or worse, I've become a different person.

For many, owning a business means getting a PhD in "the school of life." And it changes you. Distant is the innocence and purity of the dream itself, as getting to the top means being ready to get in the trenches. Business owners live the ups and downs of their business, its operations, its financial standing, and its trends. The results of your efforts define you. Inevitably, tough decisions need to be made.

Here are a few things I've learned about tough decisions:

Saying No

Saying "no" to people is tough. It is one of the hardest things to do, yet one of the most important. It involves setting boundaries, staying strong in your priorities for the company, or fighting for what's right. Saying "no" means being the bad cop at times, but it also means understanding that running a business is not about being liked.

Making choices

Tough choices are tough because often, each of your options will have some negative effects. How do you determine which course is better in the long run?

Maybe you think you should let a long-time employee go. He or she may feel like family, but may no longer be the best fit for your company. Or you might need to part ways with a consultants who can no longer help you as your company's needs change. How you handle these choices determines how you become the best leader for your company.

Coping with Change

How you cope with change, and how you inspire others to move forward, is key to growing your business. Calculating risk is part of growing, and risk involves change as well.

It's not always fun to be the one in charge. Sometimes it's tough to be the "decider." Knowing that you are guided by your goals, and your company's priorities, helps build the strength to make those tough choices. Keep at it. We're all in there.