Three types of decisions you'll make as an entrepreneur
There are three types of decisions that you will ever make - good decisions, bad decisions and a third category of the worst kind, no-decisions. In this last category are those ideas that you deliberate on for eons but never take any action on. In it lie those reasons you look for not starting up, such as the right business model or funding. But, make a decision and you will see that the startup ball magically moves forward.
I used a simple 2x2 matrix bound by a six-month timeline to help me decide the course of my life post MBA. The two columns in my matrix were: interests and distance-to-go-live. I rated various startup ideas against these two parameters - my level of interest in the venture and the likelihood of making it happen. I skipped lucrative MBA job interviews so that I eliminate any backup options.
Given my experience with cross-border software delivery, I felt that I could extend that understanding to other fields. I chose to start a services business that could give a faster return than a product venture so that I could start paying back my student loan. During the six-month decision horizon, I researched my ideas by speaking to experts from marketing to architecture to healthcare delivery. Finally, I zeroed in on healthcare delivery because I reasoned that I could get a better understanding of the field through my doctor-uncle in Texas.
Before my mind could change itself through logic and reason, I told everyone I met that I was starting a business in healthcare delivery. The word got around and I met my future co-founders, an entrepreneur and a cardiologist - students from Michigan’s evening MBA program. Money from friends and family and a grant from Zell Lurie Institute helped us pay rent during our first year of operations. We purchased second-hand furniture. I over-borrowed on my student loan. We had no clients but we soon had an office!
When I reflect on that period, I realize now that the only thing that mattered was that first decision to get on with starting up. The rest of the decisions figured themselves out based on my worldview back then. If I had made decisions that were different from the ones I made - for example, had I started up with a product business first or had I chosen a field that was completely new to me - it wouldn’t have mattered so much. While we started as a services business, we eventually built an extensive product portfolio. Most of what I learnt about the healthcare field happened much after we got started and not before. The only overarching constant was a deep rooted desire to build a robust organization.
The 2x2 matrix, past experience, access to a certain field, advisors, investors and so on were mere crutches that I was holding onto to help me overcome the third category of no-decisions. Another important lesson that I learnt from that period was that people hop on a moving train that’s going somewhere more easily rather than on an imaginary one that may or may not go anywhere. The former shows commitment and the latter is fluff.
As an entrepreneur, you will always be making decisions with limited information. Using data helps you make a rational judgment based on information you have at a certain point in time. It provides a finite boundary that allows your mind to think unemotionally and make a call. Some of these decisions will be good or bad depending on when you ask the question or the kind of lens you use for your review.
More important than the decision itself is to recognize that the singular nature of data is to change - it never stays the same even for a moment. Your success will depend on your ability to adapt with it.