Running a business is a process of making endless decisions. You decide over hiring, over firing, you devise yearly budgets, you assess which clients to pursue and which to ignore, and set the character and policy of your business for everyone to enact. The targets you decide are everyone else’s day to day reality and determine if your business succeeds or fails, and if your staff are buoyed up by meeting their targets or crushed under an unrealistic workload.
Every day you’re making decisions, and those decisions have to be good. They have to return more than they cost, albeit perhaps in the long run or indirectly, they have boost your company’s profile, or demonstrate its values and identity.
Decisions that cost you – perhaps in the long term while you’re blinded by a short term gain – that undermine your company’s identity expose you to risk. There’s a risk of bad publicity that damages your brand, of lost revenue from customers who seek refunds or turn away from you, or of the failure of internal projects if your decisions drive them overbudget.
The key to business success is avoiding risk: identifying the decisions that carry significant risk and putting policies in place to limit your own ability to put your company at risk.
One of the most important ways for you to identify and avoid risk is a constant injection of data. You need hard figures to fall back on, not divisive opinions. You need data on your own workers’ capacity, so you know exactly how much you can realistically expect from them. You need data on your performance and revenue throughout the year, and most importantly you need data on your customers. You need to know what they think of you and how they react, so you know which decisions are going to be controversial and risk losing their support, and which are safe options.
Working with a market research company gets you access to scalable intelligence. This is a form of research that keeps on running, but scales to your needs. You can ratchet the amount of feedback up and down depending on the amount of information you’re looking for, and make sure you’re never paying more than you really need to.
If you make sure you’re using data, you can model the outcomes of your decisions before you commit and avoid the most risky outcomes, keeping your success safe.