At the core of Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unrelenting commitment to helping entrepreneurs learn and grow in every stage of business. Critical business decisions can make or break your company, but have you considered what shapes those decisions? To learn more about the strategies that inform our decisions, we asked Robert L. Dilenschneider, an entrepreneur and best-selling author whose most recent book is Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World. Here's what he shared:
What informed your decision to write a book about making decisions?
I realized that decision-making is a lonely task and that while a committee of advisors can help, ultimately, it all comes down to one person in a room making the call. Most men and women likely do not understand the ramifications of a decision they are about to make nor the rules that should help govern their decision-making process. So, I decided to use the examples of 23 men and women who made decisions that changed their lives and the course of history as a way to offer some pointers that everyone can follow.
As an entrepreneur of 25+ years, what is the best business decision you ever made?
Our firm provides strategic counsel at the very highest level of a company or organization. We needed strategic counselors and public relations executives who had seen it all and knew the best advice possible--and how to give it.
My best business decision was to hire industry veterans who have proven skills and are well-positioned to lead clients through both basic tasks and intense crisis situations. In any business, it is critical to hire people with experience. No client wants to receive advice or help from someone who is clearly winging it.
Of course, we also hire inexperienced people that we mentor. They're already on their way to becoming seasoned veterans.
What was the worst decision you ever made--and what did you learn from it?
I gave a Christmas gift in excess of $25 to an individual who was one of our clients, when their company had a firm policy on the value of gifts being received. They not only returned the gift, but they dismissed my firm as advisors, saying we should have known better.
They were correct: We should have known better. Ever since that day, we are careful to check with every client whenever we plan to give a gift to ensure we do not make the same mistake.
What was the most surprising insight you learned from your research into decision-making?
It isn't exactly an aha! moment or a gee-whiz surprise, but I did not expect to receive this insight: Decisions are not made in a vacuum.
Even decisions that seem to appear "out of the blue" are, in fact, grounded in the fertile soil of a person's core values, experiences, character traits, peers, family, conscience, education, faith, advice and examples from trusted others, popular culture, ethnicity, demands of the current situation and many other factors, either positive or negative. Many of these factors are within a person's control, but not all of them. And though many of these factors are invisible or unfelt, they still have an effect.
The decision-maker (and any onlookers) may not consciously realize whence a particular decision comes, but no decision is an orphan--it has parents.
In my research and writing, I came to appreciate that the world-changing decisions made by the 23 people I profiled for the book can be viewed through this lens.
What are the top five takeaways that you hope entrepreneurs and CEOs will glean from your book?
- Take every bit of advice you can.
- Think about the consequences of your decision.
- Communicate its positives and negatives up front.
- Make the decision, and then don't look back.
- Understand that you alone are responsible and be prepared to deal with that.