What’s Worse Than Tough Choices?

measure love

Making Hard Decisions is Hard

But what might be worse?

ruth chang I watched a fantastic TED talk this weekend by a philosopher named Ruth Chang. I had never heard of Ruth Chang and that is what is so wonderful about the whole TED phenomenon, you get to see and hear amazing people you might otherwise never come across.

Ruth Chang in her Ted talk explains some of the misunderstandings about decision making that lead to our frustrations when faced with difficult choices.

Those of you who have read some of my thoughts in the past will know that one of my passions is to encourage people to be kinder to themselves. Beating up on ourselves and allowing our “critic on the shoulder’ free reign is not healthy. Sometimes the best we can do for our health and wellbeing is to give the ‘critic’ the night off.

It’s always lovely to hear other people, coming from a different standpoint, reach similar conclusions to your own and Ruth Chang clearly does just that.

Better or worse?

The thing I’d never really thought about in decision making was this: In many truly difficult decisions, one choice won’t actually be better than the other. But when we find ourselves paralysed by a difficult decision, we will often berate ourselves for not thinking clearly enough and letting emotion get in the way of a rational decision: One choice must be better than another, it doesn’t make sense to think that a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ to a marriage proposal or to a decision about opening a business in Melbourne can be of equal value… either ‘Yes’ is the best choice or ‘No’ is the right answer given all the circumstances…. Clearly… all our friends/partners/mothers certainly seem to think so too.

So we go off and do an exhaustive pro’s and con’s list and at the end of that exercise, we still don’t know which is the right decision and so we often don’t make one at all.

choices Not making a decision means we feel stuck and it gives us another opportunity to berate ourselves over our indecisiveness. Some people will drift around in that place forever. And sometimes we do make a choice by flipping a coin, or by listening to our friends/partners/mothers, only to switch back to the other choice again a short while later, and in this way we see-saw from one choice to another… At other times we’ll make a choice and stick with it, but regret the decision for ever after and always wonder what our lives would have been like if we’d made the other choice.


Ruth Chang made the point that our society and upbringing has not equipped us very well to weigh up and choose amongst the relative merits of two conflicting choices, we believe (and I have said so myself many times in the past) that we can’t manage what we can’t measure. It’s a lovely simple statement, and it’s also one of the many clichés we ‘business gurus’ love to quote as gospel… Simple, Obvious, Profound… and… Wrong

Or at least not right all the time. Yes if you want to lose weight, you need to use some kind of measurement to see how you’re going, similarly if you want to be more profitable next month and you decide to do so by producing and selling more widgets, you can only achieve that outcome and manage the process by taking one or more measurements… undoubtedly


But some things can’t be measured.

measure loveI can’t measure how much I love my wife or my children and I can’t measure if their mother loves them more than me.

I can’t measure how important money is to me and nor can I measure how important freedom or creativity is to me.

These things are in the realm of values and values are immeasurable.

Tough decisions are nearly always about values… weighing one set of values up against another.

  • Do I take the redundancy and start my own business or stay where I am?
  • Do I take the promotion and move to a different city, uprooting my family in the process, or stay in this job?
  • Do I invest in this new technology or don’t I?
  • Do I continue to expand the company or stop growing?
  • Do I fire the employee who isn’t performing as well as she used to, or keep her on?
  • Do I take on this highly profitable contract even though we’ve never done something like this before, or say no to it?
  • Do I sack this client because she’s hard work or persist with her?

Imagine yourself facing those kinds of dilemmas; your friends/partners/mothers (and business coach) may all have an opinion about the choice you should go with but for you it may not be so clear-cut.

Core Values

These choices all come down to your core personal values, not mine, not your mother’s.

Two people faced with the exact same choices in exact same circumstances may make opposing choices and do so entirely appropriately.

Choices such as those above do not come down to weighing up relative quantities of ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ … that’s why they are so hard.

And that’s as it should be.

Because confronting choices like those, is what it means to be human.

what do you stand forTo be able to make a choice like one of those you have to ask yourself to commit to who you are being, to decide what you stand for and what your core values are.

The question is not: ‘Should I sack this employee or shouldn’t I, what’s the better choice?’. I can make a compelling argument either way for you in such circumstances and so can you. The question you should ask yourself is: ‘Am I the kind the person who sacks this employee or am I the kind of person who doesn’t?’

The question is not: ‘Should I continue to expand the company, Or shouldn’t I?’. Again I can give you an equally compelling argument for either choice. Rather, the question should be: ‘Am I the kind of person who is happy to consolidate the company at this stage it is or am I the kind of person who keeps growing it?’

Being confronted with hard choices in life forces us to ask ourselves the questions: “Who am I? What do I stand for? What do I passionately believe in? What am I prepared to fight for? What is truly most important for me in my life?”

Now those are actually the kind of questions I want to be confronted with in my life… don’t you?

Next time you find yourself facing a tough decision, remind yourself that it may indeed be tough, difficult and frustrating, but it could be worse…

It could be easy.

Business Is All About The Numbers


Business is a numbers game

What does it take to make a success of your small business… how can you avoid adding to those frightening statistics about failure rates of small business.

In this series of articles and associated webinars and workshops, by Roland Hanekroot you will learn the basic concepts and get the knowledge need to become a successful ‘Business-Owner’, as opposed to a struggling ‘Business-Doer’.


The format of each episode in the “First Steps” series is to explain the basics of the topic and then in line with the principles of New Perspectives business development programs, to suggest some “First Steps” you can take straight away to put the knowledge into action.

The Numbers

numbersIn the fifth of these articles we’ll look at the numbers and ask:

How do we do business by the numbers and why?

Doing business without numbers is like playing football without a scoreboard. You simply cannot run any kind of business for any length of time without keeping your eye on the numbers.

This is a fact.

You may not like numbers and you may believe you are no good with numbers and you may want to just “get on” with running your business.

Well I have good news and bad news for you:

  1. Bad news: You’ll simply have to get over your dislike and your hurdles.
  2. Good news: Numbers are a lot simpler than you think, you don’t need all that many of them and you won’t have to find them yourself.


Numbers are important because they are the result of measurement and measurement is what allows you to manage and develop a business and stop it from going backwards.

For example you have to know (measure) what is in your bank account if you want to stay alive… No argument there I imagine? Well your bank balance is a number.

You may also want to measure the effectiveness of the money you spend on marketing and again the answers will come in the form of numbers.

You may want to know if you have enough stock on hand to supply your customers in the coming week… The answer is a number.

You may want to measure why your bank balance has been going backwards in the last three months… The answer will be in the numbers.

I trust I’ve convinced you that numbers are key and you just have to get your head around them. But which numbers?

Lets have a look at one of my Business Bedtime Stories.

A Business Bedtime Story

(The ‘Business Bedtime Stories’ are real world case histories that illustrate this months topic in some way)

Once upon a time… a long long time ago in a country not unlike Australia… Michael had a carpet cleaning business …

carpet cleaner Michael owned a carpet cleaning business in Sydney and Michael had ten vans on the road with 16 staff. Michael’s life was full of crises, most of the crises involved his staff not delivering the customer service or quality that Michael’s clients expected.

Michael kept thinking:

“If only I had a simple way to measure “Good Work” and “Good Service” that I can apply across the board and use to manage the performance of the guys ?”

Working with me as his business coach Michael learnt that you can create relative measures for intangible things. For example If you were asked to give a score out of ten for how happy you felt at this moment, where “10” was that you felt delirious and “0” meant that you were at risk of self harming, you might say “6”. If I were to ask the same question again tomorrow you might answer “7”. This would lead us to reach a valid conclusion on your state of happiness tomorrow relative to today.

This same principle can be used to measure all sorts of intangible things in life and lends itself really well to measure quality, service and satisfaction levels.


Michael and I went to work to create a self scoring system, where a staff-member filled in a small form at the end of each job in which he gave himself and the just completed job a series of scores out of 100 on a number of different measures (for example: “Give yourself a score out of 100 for being punctual”)

The forms would be collated in a spreadsheet and the numbers averaged for each staff member and for the business as a whole. Every week on Monday morning Michael received a report from his admin assistant with the average performance numbers across the company for service and quality in the last week. At the same time Michael had his assistant call 10% of all clients every week and ask them to rate the completed jobs in a similar manner and these ratings were listed side by side with the staff member’s own ratings. The staff members would be given access to the customer ratings as well and as required Michael would sit down with individual staff members, compare notes and generally help the staff improve on their ratings and become more accurate in their self-scores.

This scoring system completely changed the way Michael thought about managing his business and he realised that the way to build a great company and great business value was to step back and create management systems, scoreboards and dashboards.

Five years later Michael sold his business for a price much higher than he could ever have hoped to gain when we first met.

And Michael as well as the new owners of Michael’s business will live happily ever after… The End

Lessons from Michael:

So let’s have a look at what we can learn from Michael:

  • First: There are many other numbers that we can focus on besides money in the bank
  • Second: Measuring intangibles like punctuality is actually quite simple.
  • Third: Measuring an aspect of business allows you to improve it.

Deserted island

deserted island Here is what I’d like you to do: Imagine that you are banished to a deserted Island. And for a period of time, say 6 months, the only information you get about your business comes from the weekly mail boat. The mailboat can deliver you only a single piece of paper with maybe 15 numbers on it and the mailboat will wait for 15 minutes to take your instructions back to your business for that week.

What are the 10 to 15 numbers that will tell you how healthy the business is and allow you to make quick management decisions and instructions that you can send back?.

Most businesses will have a couple of common numbers, such as bankbalance and profitability on their mailboat report, but beyond those common numbers every business owner has his or her own priorities that tells him/her what’s going on. For example, in my business I constantly need to know how many inquiries I have had in the past 6 months, because it gives me a really good indication of the number of new clients I’ll get in the next 6 months. In another business a critical indicator might be the average number of days it takes to get paid, because if this number goes up, the business will to run out of cash.

Don’t do it yourself

I mentioned in the ‘Good News’ that you don’t need to be the one who finds the numbers.

finger on the pulseThis is actually a critical point. You as the business owner are primarily responsible for keeping your fingers on the pulse, but I want to encourage you to delegate the production of the numbers to others as much as possible.

There are a whole lot of reasons why you should delegate getting the numbers to others. This article is not the forum to go into the  detail of those reasons, but let me assure you that business owners who truly manage their business by the numbers, get one piece of paper every week, with the critical numbers from their bookkeeper, one from their sales department and one from their production department. It is simply not the job of the business owner to dive into the bookkeeping system themselves to find the numbers; that is not ‘best use of your time’

So start thinking about that deserted island, what do you need to see on that single page mailboat report to enable you to manage the health of your business?

Your First Steps:

As mentioned at the start of this article, here are some resources and actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the principles I discussed:

  1. Go to the resources page http://tiny.cc/numberslpage the following resources will help you start to manage the business by the numbers
  2. A sample dashboard with critical numbers of a past client of mine in the catering industry.
  3. Article about business dashboards by Valerie Khoo in the SMH

About the author and the Masterminds sessions

roland Roland Hanekroot is a business coach who works with Small business owners to help them have more Fun in their businesses and build businesses that sustain them for years to come. Roland is also the author of “The Ten Truths books for Business owners” (more about the books here: http://thetentruths.com.au)

Every month Roland Hanekroot runs a business development workshop as well as a webinar called “The Small Business Masterminds” more information here and to register for the next webinar or workshop, follow this link: http://smallbusinessmasterminds.com.au/ The first time is free.


Masterminds Observations – Responsibility

Business Masterminds Observations

bullet proof

I recently read “Bullet Proof your business now” by Australia’s leading business writer, Andrew Griffiths. click hereA number of passages jumped out at me, but this one in particular stood out:

“So without doubt, the first step in bullet proofing any business is to step up and take responsibility for everything the business does: bills, staff, products, liabilities, ethics, debts, taxes”

I love the straight, no nonsense sentiment of that statement by Andrew (and that is by the way the tone of the whole book). Too often we get tempted to blame the government, gen Y, our spouses, the world economy or cheap overseas imports for the ups and downs of our businesses and for that matter our lives.

Time to step up and acknowledge that our business is what it is because of Who we are… today.
So if your business isn’t quite where you’d like it to be… talk to the person responsible…

In the mirror.