As a business owner, you make decisions each and every day. You have to decide if it's worth it to get that new equipment that will speed up your production time, you need to decide which candidate to choose for the new sales lead position, or come up with the best way to handle a tech or marketing problem.

Over the past 25 years, I've come to the realization that business owners fall into two categories. There are the ones who tend to procrastinate and put off decisions for fear of making the wrong choice. And then there are the owners who jump into a project with both feet and work out the details as they go. While this second group tends to get more done, they often spend more money and manpower "experimenting" and tend to "learn" less over time.

If you fall into this second group, I want to challenge you to think differently about your next project and do these three things.

1. Pause.

Before starting a new project, take a moment to pause and think about the bigger picture. What is the end goal of the experiment or task? What could you stand to learn from the project, even if it doesn't succeed in the way that you had hoped? 

Take, for example, a marketing campaign. On the surface, you may want to do a campaign to test out some ad copy. You have several options, so you set up the ads and then you wait to see which copy had the best click-through rate. It seems pretty straightforward. But if you pause for a second and think about the campaign, you would realize that there is more information to be had from such a test. With the proper set up, you would track where that visitor goes once they land on your website or how many conversions occur for each ad copy sample. All it takes is a minute, but that pause will give you the opportunity to gain more with each dollar spent.

2. Plan.

Once you have a clear vision of what you want to get from a project or task, it becomes much easier to create a plan of attack. Write out the steps needed to achieve the desired result and create criteria for success.

3. Debrief. 

Once a project is completed, you want to take the time afterwards to debrief. This will not only give you a chance to process and "learn" from the experience, it will also allow you to look for things that you could have done differently. 

I'll illustrate how this works by sharing one of my latest debriefing sessions, which I call "Liked Best and Next Time."

My business coaching company, Maui Mastermind, recently did a large event in Denver for some of our top clients. It was a workshop on how they can build their business systems and their internal business controls in the different areas of their companies. After the event, I got stuck in the airport for a while, waiting for my flight back home to Jackson, Wyoming. So I took that time to generate some insights and feedback.

I took out my business journal and drew a vertical line down the middle of the page so that I'd have two columns: "Liked Best" and "Next Times." On the left, I wrote down a list of all the things that went really well--the things that I "Liked Best" about the workshop.  

My list included:

  • For the first time, two key staff members flew home early so that their understudies could run the event. That's evidence that our company is growing strategic depth.

  • I taught two new sessions and they both got great audience feedback.

  • One of our coaches, Steve, really nailed his strategic planning workshop.

And so on....

Then, on the right side of the page, I listed my "Next Times." These included:

  • We have a "Big Idea Worksheet" that helps participants identify in writing what their one-to-three biggest takeaways from the event are and what specific steps they can take to implement those ideas in the first 30 days after the event. Next time, I'd like to give those sheets to clients as they check in. I think that'll be a great way to keep everyone thinking in practical, actionable terms from start to finish.

It's that simple. Just take a few minutes to debrief with yourself and you can generate powerful insights for growth. 

Nothing is wasted money if you learn something from the experience.