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Micro, small and medium-sized businesses: Decision making is everything

As businesses grow many decisions come to bear from marketing to funding, expansion, investments, operations, logistics, staffing, technology adoption, and so on, all to enhance…

As businesses grow many decisions come to bear from marketing to funding, expansion, investments, operations, logistics, staffing, technology adoption, and so on, all to enhance the business productivity. Without a doubt, just like individuals make poor choices and bad decisions businesses do too. Business leaders and entrepreneurs make bad decisions not because they are not clever or experienced, but because they are humans. Certainly, humans are never perfect decision-makers at all, a bad decision can occur once in a while or repeatedly and such is the case with business leaders, entrepreneurs, top management, and/or owner-managers of businesses around as well.

As important as decision-making is in business operations, the good news is that business failures have been identified largely to be due to poor decision-making by the operators, owners, or business managers. Why is this good news? In my opinion, understanding the major cause of past business failures could help restrain many entrepreneurs or businesses from repeating this error clearly.

I have observed keenly that a large number of the businesses be it large or small in Nigeria, particularly the ones in the industrialised states and areas, relish taking shortcuts as a normal practice and they hardly ever have an articulated decision-making process within their businesses. It is rather worse in small-scale businesses where decision-making could be the sole responsibility of the operators or business owners. In fact, in small-scale businesses, the most common cause of poor decision is that the operators are so dominant with excessive managerial control that they see decision-making as their sole right without any recourse to the ideas or opinions of employees or others. This is the big issue really.

Furthermore, no initiative or contributions from employees and subordinates are ever considered, key decision making is never participatory and this sometimes leads to business concerns. A decision-making responsibility before, during, and after any implementation of a task in a business should not be the entire decision of the business owners. Playing the obvious role of the sole expert in all departments, units, and concerns of the business operations by the owners is never sustainable but damaging, this action has been captured as one of the major causes of the incidence of widespread business failures among small -scale businesses in the country.

A common behaviour of leaving things to chances when decisive action ought to be taken are also decisions but a poor one at that, which can bring huge consequences on the business. This worrying development among small-scale business operators has cost many their fortune, particularly with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic . It should be a time for decision-making for businesses and not a time to operate aloof.

Small business operators should understand that it is healthy for staff to disagree over decisions if the views defer. It only helps to make a proper and effective decision for the business at the end of the day. Leaders should purposefully create a culture where debate and disagreement are welcome. Remember, decision-making is the action or process of thinking through possible options and uncertain outcomes, and selecting the best option concerning the business. This decision-making could bother on marketing, financing, customer satisfaction, investment, and technology usage in the business.

Though Nigeria has a tough operating environment and harsh economic factors, however many of the small businesses and start-ups in the real estate, retail, manufacturing, corner shops, and service sectors among others have lost their relevance  due to poor or lack of prompt decision-making.

One of the worst things to do in business is to ignore customers’ preferences, revolutionary innovations and also fail to adapt to changes within the business environment as quickly as possible. The high business mortality rate in Nigeria is mainly due to these reasons. Entrepreneurs and operators try to protect what they already have going for them, instead of having a decision-making process that can always suggest innovation and ways of doing things better to meet and surpass customers’ expectations.

Many businesses still follow this rigid path, particularly in the manufacturing, services, and retail businesses, lacking the foresight of the advent of online presence, e-commerce, and technological shift occasioned by COVID-19. In my view, businesses need to have a sound decision-making policy that is in tune with the current realities of aggressive social media and internet usage. We have experienced a major cultural shift in customers’ behaviour with the COVID-19, businesses need a decision-making process to review their activities from time to time. This will help to adapt to the economic and environmental changes accordingly.

Multiple studies have suggested that engaging employees in the decision-making process can impact businesses positively, make them more committed to business success, have stronger connections with the businesses, increase engagements and also help produce higher quality results. Therefore, building a participatory decision-making culture is recommended for businesses particularly small-scale businesses at this time. This strategy will more than likely improve the competitive position and effectiveness of the management, operators, and business owners. Because making decision is a critical component of effective leadership, hence involving employees in the process will help businesses make better decisions.


Dr. Timi Olubiyi, is an Entrepreneurship amd Business Management expert and can be reached via [email protected]

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