Starting a business is a huge decision. It will be the first and in many ways the biggest of the many you’ll make as a founder and future business owner. You’ll need to choose what to call your new venture, whether to start as a sole trader or limited company and who to bank with.

For Anne Boden, her business idea was to build a new bank. Many believed it couldn’t be done. But here we are, six years after she made that decision, with almost 100,000 sole trader and business accounts. We asked some of our business customers to share their insights on decision making. Here’s what they said.

Remember that you’re not the only one

You might think you’re the only one figuring everything out as and when problems arise. But you’re not. “In truth, all founders are making it up as they go along,” says Ash Phillips, founder of entrepreneur network Yena. There are all sorts of networks for startups you could seek help from, including Yena, DIFTK for freelance parents and WCAN for black women.

“Even in businesses that have been done before, by people who have been in the business before, there will be new variables, new technologies, new markets, new politics, new channels and a whole load of other things out of your control that neither you or anyone else will be able to foresee.”

Ash stands smiling
Ash Phillips, founder of Yena

Ask for advice

Part of remembering that you’re not alone means asking for help when you need it. “Getting good advice is a must,” says Ash.

Ask people who know you in different capacities: friends or family, industry or business experts you’ve found on LinkedIn or through podcasts, or even ex-work colleagues. But remember, every business is different and ultimately it’s up to you: “Getting too much advice can slow you down. You can ask 10 brilliant people for their opinions and get 10 different answers; at the end of the day it’s your answer about your business (that you know better than anyone) that will need to be made.”

Have conviction in your decisions and know that if you fail, you could learn more from a failure than you would from a success. “Every decision is the same size,” says Stuart Lennon. He runs Lime Consultancy and Nero’s Notes, through which he sells stationary. “Make no decision until you have to, then give it some thought, make it and move on. You will get some wrong. That’s better than agonising for hours, days, weeks and then still getting it wrong.”

Don’t rush, but don’t procrastinate

Each decision will have its own timescale - some need to be made quickly, others can be researched and reflected on over a few weeks.

Christina Hseih, who runs the engineering company CH Simple Design, has a pragmatic approach to her decision making: “Firstly, do your own research and find your options. Secondly, seek second opinions from appropriate people, at least two. Thirdly, if time allows, leave it for a few days or a week. Then review all information and decide.”

Christina smiles outside
Christina Hseih, founder of CH Simple Design

Leaving a day or a week can allow you to process how you feel about a certain decision and bring further clarity.

“If it’s a decision that involves money, I’ll take a few days and really consider how it will impact me if it does work out and if it doesn’t. I try not to make hasty decisions, I’ve done that before in terms of buying equipment that, it turns out, I don’t need,” says Helen, who sells her handmade bags on Etsy.

Try not to put decisions off for months though - at some point you’ll have to choose. As Stuart says, you often can’t afford to spend hours doing endless pros and cons lists, or waste time worrying about a decision you’ve already made.

Think about long-term consequences

Another theme that came up from our business customers was looking at objectives across a five or ten year period. Ollie Edwards runs Epic Breakfast, through which he delivers breakfast boxes each Saturday to his customers in Bristol. He says: “Survey the options and choose which best meets your long-term business goals. The instinctive choice is usually the right one for you, as your subconscious brain is usually better at evaluating than the conscious.”

Ollie holds a delivery outside a bakery
Ollie Edwards, founder of Epic Breakfast

For example, if your decision is about redesigning your website, you may have to compromise on other marketing costs such as digital advertising for a few months, to fund the new website design. But then when the website is finished, its new, appealing design could pay for itself by bringing in more business.

Go with your gut

Trust your instincts is the message that was continuously repeated when we asked our business customers about making decisions.

“Go with your gut,” says Matthew Parker, who started his marketing and design business when he was still at university. “Sometimes something may feel like a bit of a risk, but remember you’ve taken one of the biggest risks by starting the business in the first place.”

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