Leaders Need To Make The Necessary Sometimes Difficult Business Decisions

July 24, 2023

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As a business owner, you’ve likely heard the saying, “The buck stops here.” This phrase, popularized by President Harry S. Truman, encapsulates the fundamental essence of business leadership – the responsibility to make the tough calls. However, this responsibility goes far beyond your immediate team or your traditional products and services. It reaches out to the wider audience you serve – your customers, stakeholders, and the market at large.

Survival vs Success: The Key Differences

The first key distinction to appreciate is the difference between survival and success. Many business owners mistake mere survival – maintaining a status quo or breaking even – for success. In truth, success is about growth, about consistently striving for and achieving more than just the bottom line.

Survival in business might mean making enough to cover expenses, clinging to outdated products, or satisfying a handful of loyal customers. However, success demands innovation, adaptation, and a relentless focus on maximizing value for the broadest possible audience.

The Greater Good: Prioritizing Many Over Few

One of the more challenging aspects of business leadership is understanding that sometimes, we must prioritize the many over the few. When tough times hit, it’s essential to recognize that making business decisions that have the most significant positive impact on the largest number of people is often the best course of action.

In these situations, you may have to make decisions that aren’t popular with everyone. It might mean letting go of legacy products that no longer contribute to the business’s success or, more painfully, making staff changes to ensure the company’s survival. It’s not about being heartless; it’s about ensuring your business continues to serve and succeed for the greater good.

Embrace Your Leadership: Protect, Adapt, and Trust

Being a business leader is not merely about managing an operation that employs people. It is about embracing the heavy mantle of responsibility that comes with making the hard choices.

Financial and risk management are not peripheral tasks. They are central to your role as a leader. It means staying on top of market and industry trends, adjusting your strategies to meet evolving demands, and sometimes letting go of the past to seize the opportunities of the future.

As leaders, we need to lean into these responsibilities, putting respect above popularity, understanding that every decision will not be met with universal approval. Yet, making the tough calls when needed is an integral part of the role.

It’s vital to remember that business judgment should not be swayed by personal emotions. It’s not always an easy task, but the best business leaders can separate the two, understanding that what is best for the business might not always align with personal sentiments.

Here’s a Hypothetical Example:

Let’s say you’re the CEO of ‘Zephyr Tech,’ a technology company that has been producing and selling a flagship software product for the last ten years. While this product has been successful, in recent years its profitability has started to decline as market dynamics change and newer, more innovative competitors have emerged.

Your financial team has alerted you that if this trend continues, your company’s survival is at risk. Some of your team members, particularly those who have been with the company since the inception of the product, are emotionally attached to it and insist on keeping it. However, based on your market analysis and financial assessments, you understand that a shift in strategy is needed for the company’s success.

In this scenario, as the business leader, you have some tough calls to make.

  1. Survival vs Success: You decide not to cling to the diminishing returns of the legacy product simply to keep the company afloat. Instead, you aim for success. This involves laying off some of your existing staff to free up additional resources and investing these gains in research and development to create new, innovative products that meet the current market demands.
  2. Prioritizing the Many Over the Few: You realize that even though discontinuing the legacy product might lead to temporary discontent among a minority of your employees and customers, it’s a necessary step. The success and financial health of the entire company and its numerous stakeholders depend on it.
  3. Embracing Leadership: You accept your responsibility as a leader to make the tough decision. You organize a company-wide meeting to communicate the changes and the reasons behind them, understanding that your decision might not be popular, but it’s necessary for the business’s sustainability and growth. You step out in front rather than hide behind others.


Wrapping Up

Remember, your responsibility is broad and profound, extending far beyond your immediate team. You are responsible for your business’s health, for your customers, your stakeholders, and your market presence. Embrace this responsibility with courage, understanding, and the willingness to make the tough calls when they are needed. Be a leader who strives for success, not mere survival, and who prioritizes the greater good above all else. This approach will not only contribute to your business’s longevity and prosperity but will also build a legacy of effective and responsible leadership.