Barriers to Making Big Decisions
A Chinese Case Study
I am writing a book on how to think creatively about where to take your company and how to decide where to go.
I am interviewing company leaders to learn about their experience making important decisions for the future of their company. I recently spoke with the owner of a textile company in Henan province, China. After our conversation on Zoom, I was struck by how similar his circumstances and approach are to comparable companies in the US.
The company imports wool from Australia and manufactures premium textiles sold on large rolls to clothing manufacturers in China and abroad. Revenues are about $20 million and the firm has 600 employees. Lower cost competitors in China and South Asia are challenging the firm. The owner wants to transform the business model and introduce innovation into manufacturing operations. He is also considering moving into clothing manufacturing.
We talked about how he makes important decisions. The company does not have a board of directors. While he occasionally will get advice from managers in the company, he will make important decisions on his own.
The company owner said, “my business is my life.” The decisions he makes for the company are decisions he is making for his life and the life of his family.
If I were advising the owner of this Chinese textile firm, I would encourage him to consider a wide range of future paths for the company. Understand in detail what the company, as it is today, would have to do to become the company of the future. Can you get there from here? And be explicit about goals for the company and his family.
My starting advice would be encouragement to bring trusted advisors into a conversation about the future of the company. Could be a board of directors but does not have to be in that form. Easy for me to suggest getting knowledgeable advisors engaged in a conversation about the future of your company. All of us are uncomfortable listening to other points of view and bringing outsiders into our most important decisions. I can also share my view that making yourself vulnerable will make you stronger. Difficult to do whether you are sitting in Henan, Milan, or Greensboro, North Carolina.
I want to talk to owners and leaders of organizations about planning for the future and making hard decisions. Do you have an interesting story to share?
I have not yet traveled to China, but I can share the image of a lily pad flower I captured in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Museum in Pasadena, CA.
Los Angeles may be known as La La Land, but the Huntington Museum is firmly rooted in the ground. The museum is a treasure of gardens, plants, trees, and flowers from over the world.