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Good Business Decisions Aren’t Made by Vote

Have you heard this? It’s not mine, I think it’s sort of common knowledge:

If the decisions were made by consensus, every wall would be painted beige.

fingers planning

As my business grew up from entrepreneurial to stable, we had to redo our decision process. Early on, we sat around, a few of us, discussed and decided. That was when there were 10 or 12 of us. I guess I made a lot of the final decisions, because it was my work, my product, and my company. But it often felt like consensus. And it seemed to work.

But it didn’t work forever. After a while — a few years, really, but it seemed like a blink of the eye — we were 30-40 people. And we had programmers and bookkeepers not just chiming in on decisions about, say, packaging and web designs … but feeling alienated if their opinions weren’t given enough weight. And here’s what I learned:

Good business decisions aren’t done by votes

Ultimately, we had to learn that we’d evolved into a structure based on functional expertise, and we wanted our financial people minding cash flow and taxes, our development people writing code, and our marketing people deciding on packaging, web strategies, and social media. And that hurt some feelings. But it improved the business.

Businesses that grow must also grow up.

(Image: Big Stock Photo)


  • Daria Steigman says:

    Hi Tim,

    I often say that “leadership is about making the tough decisions” (well, not just that, but it is an important element). It may have been a tough transition away from having everyone feel they had an equal voice, or the perception thereof. But it is always a necessary one if you’re going to move from consensus think to strategic, smart action.

  • Carlos Diaz says:

    Well said and better written. A business is not a democracy, it is an autocracy that needs to listen to all the stakeholders, mostly customers. When I ran mine, ALL the employees became
    “salesperson”, answering the phone, handling customer queries and complaints, even if the demand originated in another department (accountants answering delivery problems, and not transferring the call to the warehouse clerk, etc).

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