REGRETTABLY, most companies that I know of aren’t in the friendship-making business—they’re in the profit-turning business. For your business to prosper, you must be able to make tough and fair decisions for the business. The decisions you make every day to save your business may not always please everyone, and they may be hard to make, but you have to make these tough decisions because they are necessary to grow the business, attain its goals, or survive. Normally, it’s not uncommon for businesses to operate on limited and scarce resources, with stiff competition, and in an arduous economic environment.

The tough and fair decisions you make in business must be reasonable, rational and the most appropriate for the circumstances to deal with looming problems. You may need to consult with inside personnel and stakeholders before making these decisions, as they will directly affect your business. Changes in taxation guidelines by the government, increases in the cost of production, and the need for business expansion force business leaders to make tough decisions in order to maintain their market niche and competitiveness.

The following are 7 proven tips and guidelines to follow or apply when you’re staring a tough business decision in the face:
  1. Make your desired outcome clearly known to those whom it may affect.  Inform your subordinates why the decision has to be made, what it is meant to achieve, and that there are no other avenues open at the moment. Some of the tough and fair decisions you have to make frequently in business include resisting salary increment demands when the employee’s productivity and performance is not commensurate with their demand or when the business income levels and expenditure balance cannot sustain it.
  2. Explore whether there are other alternatives of achieving your business goals without making the tough decision. Tough decisions sometimes cause leaders to be viewed as non-responsive to their subordinates; this is not good for business. They must, however, be made in the appropriate circumstances in order to realize the desired objectives. Always bear in mind that they have to be made and still maintain a continuing good relationship with those who they affect or cause dissatisfaction or displeasure. In other words, you must maintain a balance between being reasonable and attaining your business goals and objectives when making tough business decisions.
  3. Conduct a prior self-internal analysis of the tough decision to be made; critically analyze the impacts of the decision and how it is going to affect relationships in the business. Conduct a survey, if possible, of how the decision is going to affect your juniors’ morale and perception of you; be careful not to destroy the already existing business relationship and trust.  A tough decision should have a general effect.
  4. Ensure that the results of the tough decision will be seen and appreciated in the future. They should be seen in terms of increased productivity, increased profit, higher ranking by customer satisfaction bodies, increased sales and leads generation, better working conditions, etc. Make tough decisions when necessary for your business and when you are sure of their successful returns.
  5. Ensure that the action you take is bold and with a variety of options; lay down all the strategies of implementing the tough decision. Take note of possible challenges like industrial actions, civil suits, demonstrations and strikes, and the morale of workers, and prepare a plan to counter them and their effects in advance. Ensure that business operations do not stop as a result of the decision. If it is a decision which is likely to be challenged in court, put all the necessary legal mechanisms in place like hiring, briefing and consulting your business legal advisors. If it is likely to be resisted by employees trade unions, you may also consult employers unions for your support.
  6. As long as it is beneficial to the business, fair, and reasonable, do not keep asking yourself “what if,” as this will only put in you in a dilemma and slow down your decision-making. Tough decisions can be made by a single manager or by management as a whole; do not take a lot of time meditating on what outsiders are going to say about you, your management, and business. If you have critically analyzed and identified what you are going to reap from the tough decision in the future, go ahead and implement it. That is why good business leaders must be known for their words and actions.
  7. Do not be extremely rough or harsh. Tyrannous leaders, throughout history, were always eventually dethroned—usually painfully. Listen to the views of others and opinions on the likely impact of the tough decision. You may consult other leaders or business managers who have encountered a similar situation and how they maneuvered through it. Do not underestimate the views of others; remember that the decision will earn you respect, once successful. Be confident of your ability to make decisions to achieve the set goals for the good of your business.
In closing, be guided by values and be conscious when making a tough business decision. Every business has values and principles, which must be observed. If your business is of the nature which requires employees to work long hours, do not be afraid to make tough decisions in order to enforce this and attain the desired objectives. With that said, as the boss, it will pay off dividends in the morale department for you if you’re seen staying late or coming in early every so often, too. Be guided by conscience and rationality only and not personal vendetta; also, do not discriminate or favor anyone in your decisions.