10 Key Questions to Ask Before Making Any Major Business Decision

Sep 7, 2021

Every decision you make in business will have its consequences. While you always want to make decisions that will result in positive outcomes, things don’t always go as well as you hoped they would. In this way, it’s important for a leader to take the time to think through a potential decision before committing to it. 

Thankfully, there are some important questions you can ask yourself to help you gain clarity on a decision before you make it. Below, members of Young Entrepreneur Council share the questions they always ask before making any major business decisions for their companies and how those questions help them make better decisions overall.

Members of the YEC

1. What would you do if you were starting from scratch?

The one question I ask myself before making any major decision is, “What would you do if you were starting from scratch?” That’s a tough question to answer, but it forces me to take a step back and look at the company holistically to see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. For example, I recently asked myself this question before launching a new AI-generated market reports feature, which led me to make decisions around how to best market and position the product. – Andy Pandharikar, Commerce.AI

2. How will this allow me to make a bigger impact in the community?

This mindset increases client trust and team morale, ultimately increasing the top and bottom lines and allowing us to donate more to charities. It also helps avoid the pitfalls of decisions based solely on a short-term outcome. Often, the negatives in the short term are necessary in order to reap the long-term benefits. I have employees who have health concerns, which raised the question of, “Should we provide healthcare to employees as a small company?” They had access to care, but not what could really help their quality of life. We ultimately decided to take that financial hit to ensure our employees’ health matched the values we articulate as a company, and the benefits have been massive. – Liam Leonard, DML Capital

3. Is the decision going to make my stakeholders happy?

This is dependent on the type of decision, but one question that applies to most business-related decisions is, “Is this going to make my stakeholders happy?” Stakeholders include employees, customers, the community, investors and everyone else who will be affected by the decision. Once you answer that question and determine who will or won’t be happy with the outcomes of the decision, you can break it down further. However, it all starts with the happiness test. If a key stakeholder is going to be very unhappy with a certain decision, then you may need to make some changes to appease them. And of course, if no one will be happy about your decision, you may need to rethink things from the beginning. – Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com

4. How will this decision change our journey?

A simple question I ask myself is, “How will this decision change our journey?”—the key word here being “our.” “Our” encapsulates all the higher-ups in the business, but also all our employees, distributors, customers and the brand overall—basically, anyone who could be impacted by the decision that needs to be made. Sure, it’s not the most inventive or groundbreaking question, but for me, it makes me recheck things across the board instead of just for myself and business partners. It keeps us self-aware, humble and primed to make the best decisions possible that center us toward evolving positively as an entire entity. – Emily Stallings, Casely, Inc.

5. Is this decision reversible?

When an action can’t be reversed, I opt to get more input and feedback from my partners and department heads. This helps me ensure that I get different perspectives on the matter and that I make the best decision possible. When a decision can be undone, I go ahead with it. I also ask team members to do the same with their work. This mental model prevents bottlenecks at work and reduces unnecessary communication, making us more effective in general. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

6. Is this helping me accomplish my initial goal?

When I launched my company, I knew I wanted to help companies succeed through technology. This is something I try to think of daily when making decisions or implementing new changes. Before I take an initial step, I ask myself whether this decision is helping me accomplish my initial goal of helping as many companies as possible — and whether this decision will continue supporting that goal for years to come. Business owners often lose sight of our “why” and get caught up in the day-to-day minutia, but we must never lose sight of why we started and what our company is contributing to the world. Big or small, all decisions should support this goal. – Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow

7. What’s the worst that can happen?

I find myself asking, “What’s the worst that can happen?” before making a decision. Normally, people use this saying in jest. But for a business owner, it’s a genuine question. I need to know the best and worst possible outcomes so I can make an informed decision. Once I answer this question, I can start assessing the risk and determine the odds of success versus things not going according to plan. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

8. Do I feel fear or intuition around this decision?

You want to know where your feelings are coming from because if they originate from fear, you might be missing out on taking a worthwhile risk. Part of owning a business is knowing when to take risks and when to sit back, which becomes easier as you gain more experience. Pay attention to how you feel because it’s telling you more than you think. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

9. How does it benefit our current and future clients?

This should be the first question you ask when planning a major change in the company. Every strategy and major change should focus on how to provide better service to current and future clients. Then, we can find out what needs to be improved to delight our clients and help them get better results from our services. It can be fixing an internal process to have better communications with clients, improving the quality of services or even rebranding the company and creating a new content strategy to have a stronger presence and higher quality content. We should always ask how our major decisions will benefit the target customers in the next five years. – Ali Payani, LookinLA

10. If nobody knew, would I make the same decision?

If nobody knew about this decision and if it was never posted on social media, would I still make the same decision? I have to think about my real source of happiness and self-fulfillment. Sometimes when we get too influenced by what other people think of us, it makes our decision based on other people’s approval of us. I usually step back and think of it as a decision I’ll be proud of whether it’s acknowledged by no one or everyone. I achieve clarity when I remove external forces and voices. I have found that sometimes I do things because it might look cool or prestigious or because other people are doing the same thing, like I want to be like them. I want to get the same attention. Every time I find myself trying to do things for the wrong selfish reasons, I then fail myself and the team. – Daisy Jing, Banish

By Forbes Young Entrepreneurs Council