How to make tough decisions


As the year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on this past year while contemplating the new year. Needless to say, a lot has happened this past year, personally and professionally. I’m willing to bet you’ve had a year of ups and downs as well. Life is never a flat road or a straight path. None of us has a crystal ball into the future, and yet, it’s natural to make life adjustments based on how things have been going and where you think things are heading.

Making easy decisions or adjustments are, by definition, “easy to make.” Making an easy decision doesn’t mean it’s easy to stick with that decision. But making the decision itself is usually not difficult. It’s human nature to gravitate towards pleasant things and avoid difficult things. Since these types of decisions are “no-brainers,” let’s consider difficult decisions.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

– President theodore roosevelt

Every year around this time, I spend some time in introspection. Invariably, I find myself contemplating the challenging decisions I’ve faced as a small business owner. The decision to start my business over 20 years ago was a tough decision, and I’ve been making tough decisions ever since. Besides the decision to launch the business, some of the other tough decisions I’ve made over the years include:

  • Hiring people – since we’re a small business, a lot of time and consideration goes into each and every hire we make. We’ve worked really hard to hire local people and create local jobs, which is not the norm in our industry with cheap overseas and online contracted service providers.
  • Parting ways with people – sometimes it “just doesn’t work out.” I like to think that all situations are fixable, but sometimes that means ending things for the betterment of both parties.
  • Deciding what types of services to offer – do we play to our strengths or stretch and explore new opportunities? Our industry of digital marketing, like many, is constantly changing. Digital marketing didn’t even exist when I was in college, yet here I am doing it. What’s the future for our industry?
  • Investing in new systems and technology – we aim to have the best tools for our company, but those investments are rarely quick to implement or cheap in price.
  • How long to wait for a result – when we make a change or investment, it’s easy to get impatient about results. Knowing when to double down and stick with it or cut any losses is tough. I generally adhere to a 90-day rule.
  • Taking on and keeping clients – we’re not a fit for everyone, nor is every client a good match for us. It’s not always easy to know how well something is going to work at the beginning. If things get bumpy, do we keep the client and try to work it out?
  • Setting prices – that’s always a tough one. We are well aware of national and local “market rates” for our services. How do we handle the client who needs our help but can’t afford it? Equally as hard is the problem of not charging enough for the client who is “needy”?
The struggle is real. The author contemplates making a tough decision. Photo/Joe Domaleski
The struggle is real. The author contemplates making a tough decision. Photo/Joe Domaleski

Here’s how I handle tough decision-making, and perhaps sharing this will help you as you consider tough decisions.

Embrace the Uncertainty – One of the first things to acknowledge is that uncertainty is a natural part of decision-making. It’s rare to have all the information you need to feel 100% confident. Accepting that some level of uncertainty is inevitable can be liberating and can help you move forward.

Gather Information – Start by gathering as much relevant information as possible. In business, this could mean analyzing market trends, financial reports, or customer feedback. In personal decisions, it might involve researching, seeking expert opinions, or reflecting on past experiences. Remember, information is power, but also know when you have enough to make a decision.

Consider Different Perspectives – It’s easy to get tunnel vision, especially when you’re deeply involved in the situation. Try to view the problem from different angles. Discussing the issue with trusted colleagues, mentors, or friends can provide new insights and reveal blind spots in your thinking.

Evaluate the Risks and Rewards – Every decision has its risks and rewards. Weighing these against each other is crucial. What are the potential benefits of each option? What are the consequences? How does each scenario align with your long-term goals, both professionally and personally?

Listen to Your Intuition – While logic and data are essential, don’t underestimate the power of your intuition. Sometimes, your gut feeling can guide you towards a decision that makes the most sense for you personally or for your business, even if it’s not immediately apparent on paper.

Prepare for the Fallout – Understand that every decision, especially the tough ones, will have consequences. Prepare yourself for them. If it’s a business decision, have a contingency plan. If it’s personal, ensure you have a support system in place.

Commit and Reflect – Once you’ve made your decision, commit to it fully. Second-guessing yourself can lead to unnecessary stress and confusion. Reflect on the outcomes of your decision, learn from them, and use these insights for future decisions.

Give Yourself Grace – Finally, and most importantly, remember that it’s okay to make mistakes. No one makes the right decision every time. What’s important is that you learn from your experiences and grow both as a business owner and an individual.

As we wrap up the year, it’s important to remember that our journey is shaped by the decisions we make, both easy and challenging. The experiences of the past, with their mix of triumphs and trials, serve as important lessons as we navigate the future. Whether in our personal lives or in our business lives, each decision carves out a path for new opportunities and growth. I hope that the insights shared here not only resonate with your own experiences but also inspire confidence in your decision-making. Whatever decisions you may be struggling with, I hope you give yourself the strength to follow through and the grace to accept what life has to offer. Here’s to a year ahead filled with thoughtful choices, continued learning, and boundless possibilities.

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. Sign up for the Country Fried Creative newsletter to get marketing and business articles directly in your inbox. ]