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The Startups Guide To Decision Making

The Startups Guide To Decision Making

To grow fast, take more decisions — to grow further, take fewer decisions.

When four of us started the company, in the initial days, we were going slow. This isn’t unusual. A startup is learning, understanding, figuring it out through the haze and going after a dream. A startup may slow down because of different reasons. A startup will mostly (if not always) be in resource crunch — may it be money, people, external services etc. There is no surprise in a startup being slow. But there is one other important reason which slowed us down — Indecision. We weren’t making our decisions fast enough.

Indecision can be because of several reasons. It may be a structuring issue where there was nobody who owns the function of ‘decision-making’. It could be because the person in charge of ‘decision-making’ is not fearless enough, clear enough or may even be emotional (which keeps him/her away from logical decisions).

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision — Maimonides

In our startup’s case, more guidelines evolved over time than preset ones. Our decision-making process also evolved over time. The first challenge is to understand that there is indecision which is slowing us down. When we figured it out, we had to find ways to solve it. So we decided that there should be somebody to ‘Bell the cat’ and the team put me in charge of ‘decisions’.

Being the ‘decision maker’ doesn’t mean you always ‘take’ the decisions. It means the onus of decision making is on you — you have to make sure that there is a quick enough decision or else keep nudging until the team makes a decision. Sometimes, it may well be your decision, sometimes it is just agreeing to others’ decision. Or it is taking the final call when there is no majority (in our case, we were four people — Breaking the tie). In our case, though, in the initial stage, it was mostly collective decision making because we agreed more than we differed. (BTW — there is no problem in disagreeing, arguing and then deciding).

As we matured, the decision making also matured. Over a period of time, our decision-making gained speed. Instead of waiting and taking decisions, I started taking decisions on-the-go by making sure that team is on the same page. Yes — company started moving quicker.

At this point — if you are a startup or any other multi-people organisation, think through whether you have an effective decision-making model. There is no one-size-fits-for-all here — some may work with a flat hierarchy, some with a layered hierarchy — find the right way for you/your team.

If you ask me, I would say one person should be in charge of decisions. The entire team needs to trust him and he should make it a point not to be a dictator, but a leader.

Coming back — once we crossed the chasm of indecision to quick decisions, we were moving fast (growing) which increases the number of decisions. All is (was) well until we grow to next next levels.

Now when you are at the next level, you have a different set of problems. Here if one person starts making all the decisions by himself, then it will cause indecision because there are hard limits to what one person can do. So now would be the time to intentionally reduce the number of decisions (by you). The total number of decisions you got to take will keep increasing — you need to hire more, fire more, fund raise more, spend or not spend more, add or not add features, red or green color and more.

When I say reduce the number of decisions you take, it essentially means to delegate a set of decisions that you take. Here is your next step of evolution as a leader. Here you start trusting your team members with decisions pertaining to their work, their area of interest and expertise (there will be better people than you to take decisions — for eg, I don’t know technology and I shouldn’t take decisions there. ATM knows better about designs, so he should have a key place in design decision making). When you grow to a next level, don’t bother taking decisions on which chair to buy or which place to plan an outing (unless you have some specific thoughts on these subjects or there have been mistakes in the past). As you grow even further, you got to have a second level team which is as good as the first (if not better).

Train them to a level where you feel confident in them, then give them enough confidence to take decisions. This is the only way to grow.

Whoever takes the decisions, there will be some mistakes. You just got to make sure it is within the bearable limit.

What do you mean by amazing decisions — this is my theory or definition — may not be true.

When you look back at a situation and think about a decision you made, if you are proud of that decision you made, then it was a good decision. When you have a rich set of such decisions, then you are a good decision maker and those were amazing decisions.

At Vibe, we have grown to a level where our second level leadership has started taking some of those crucial decisions for us and we are proud of having the team that we have. When they read this, I want them to know that you are doing exactly what we would like you to do. So brace yourself, be confident and take more decisions until you have to delegate it further down. 🙂

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.


Founder & CEO at Vibe. We are on a mission to help sales and marketing people with additional information about their leads.
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