After introducing the idea of condensed soup to the world 150 years ago, Dr. John Dorrance spent 30 years building the world-brand company known as The Campbell Soup Company. It's become one of the world's most reputable companies and is no stranger to top rankings on the Fortune 500 list. 

Today, the food giant is struggling with debt and an earnings decline. As a result, the company was forced to reach a settlement with investors at activist hedge fund, Third Point LLC. A decision that will create a dramatic shift in the soup company's deep roots in tradition. The Campbell Co is publicly traded, yet a large family ownership had remained intact through the years.

One speculation made by CNBC is that a series of missteps, partially caused by inexperience and poor decision-making, is responsible for the decline. 

Once other soup options hit the market the condensed soup market began to deteriorate decades ago. That, coupled with the brand's failure to appeal to the Millennial audience prompted company leaders to jump on the fresh food trend. In 2012 they purchased Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion dollars.  However, Campbell had difficulty managing a fresh food unit since they've never done it before. They weren't equipped to ship fresh food and their inexperience in this market cost the company dearly. Their fresh food unit as a whole saw an operating loss of $3 million last quarter and is now on the market for purchase.

To compound matters, Campbell went on to purchase Snyder's-Lance pretzel and chip company for 6.2 billion dollars last year. While the company is standing by its decision, the purchase more than tripled Campbell's debt burden, since they also acquired Snyder-Lance's significant debt. 

Following the Campbell story through the decades can teach business owners valuable lessons about decision-making and more.

How do you know if you are making a solid decision?

You don't, there are never any guarantees. However, you can lower the risk by performing your research and working with mentors, consultants, business coaches, and your team. 

Use tools like process mapping and flowcharts.

Entrepreneurs often fail to get things out of their heads and onto paper. Your brain needs a visual to process vital information and creative ideas. Maps and charts will help to affirm that you are looking at the big picture.  

Consult with mentors.

Every entrepreneur needs at least one amazing mentor. When I encourage my clients to find industry mentors the suggestion is often met with resistance. They claim to not know anyone to ask, or if they do know someone, they don't want to burden them. Odds are you do know someone, and if that someone is truly a successful leader, they will most likely want to help. Ask them questions about what you need to consider prior to taking a big leap. Avoid asking them what you should do, no one wants to tell you what to do.

Involve your current team in big changes and decisions.

By the time you've grown to the point of two or more employees, there are things you don't know about the inner-workings of your business--things you should factor into your decisions. In addition, your team members will have a unique perspective, maybe even a few creative ideas. Be open about your considerations and ask for input. In the end, the growth decisions are yours, but you'll be better equipped to make them.

Listen to your intuition.

Not all decisions can be made from logical thinking. In fact, studies in neuroscience show that decision-making is largely an unconscious event. Ask your subconscious for the answers, or clarity, prior to going to sleep at night. Spend time doing deep breathing exercises, and in meditation. The answers typically don't come in those moments, they come at the most unexpected times. Just be patient and trust that you become more clear about your next steps.

Hire a business coach.

Like mentors, a good coach will not tell you what to do. They will make sure you're seeing the big picture and taking everything into consideration. They will help you explore your reasoning at the strategic and emotional levels. Do not block your emotional responses, your emotions and feelings are your guides in all areas of life. 

Paint the full picture for your advisors.

Hopefully, you have a business accountant, attorney, technical guru, and other experts in place. Be transparent in your communications with them. If you want something badly enough there may be a tendency to omit certain risk factors or considerations when you meet with your experts. Reveal it all so they can do their jobs. 

Every entrepreneur will make some poor decisions, but they need not be compounded. Use these points, take your time, and believe in yourself. 

Published on: Nov 29, 2018