The Way I See It: A Bias for Action

October 31, 2012

1:00 pm

The way I see it, the best entrepreneurs are decisive and have a penchant for action. In a startup, time is your most precious commodity, and running out of it is your biggest enemy. Time can erode any gains you have made if you’re not constantly improving, and elapsed time can put you further behind if you’re playing catch up. If you’re not already generating positive cash flow, then time is like the hourglass in The Wizard of Oz ticking away as your cash balance slowly disappears. Once the grains of sand in the hourglass are gone, the Flying Monkeys will come and carry you away.

Good entrepreneurs know that an imperfect decision made now has a higher expected value than a more confident decision later. Why? Because time has value.

Being decisive and making fearless decisions are learned skills that come with experience. These traits have nothing to do with intellect. There’s something to be said for evaluating the data you have and making decisions based on facts. I’m talking about the hesitation that comes from being afraid to make a decision.

Internalizing the value of time and knowing when to pull the trigger are skills that require a few trips around the block first. Experienced entrepreneurs anticipate the next few chess moves, and they know when it is time to make the call. By properly valuing time, experienced entrepreneurs avoid the detriment that comes with being hesitant, tentative, or indecisive.

If you find yourself doing any of these things, look out the window…

  • Being paralyzed from making a decision out of fear of making the wrong decision.
  • Needing to see more “data” to help make a more informed decision.
  • Wanting the concurrence of three other people so you are not alone in making the decision.
  • Deferring a decision until the opportunity passes you by so you don’t have to live with the consequences of the decision (the “pocket veto” method of doing nothing).
  • Believing that the decision will be obvious if you study the situation long enough.
  • Hiring an advisor or consultant to tell you what to do.
  • Waiting for the next board meeting so you’re not out on a limb.

The Flying Monkeys are coming to get you.

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Neil Kane, the Director of Undergraduate Entrepreneurship at Michigan State University, is a leading authority on technology commercialization and innovation and has the battle scars to prove it. He was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2007. His Twitter handle is @neildkane. He’s also on Google+ and LinkedIn.

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