Photo of game pieces with one red piece representing leadership

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As entrepreneurs, we know that running a business brings a lot of headaches and worries along with the more positive experiences of leadership. Every day seems to be filled with decisions that affect your success and the success of your employees. Should you buy that new truck? Should you hire another employee? Should you fire an employee that does not seem to be working out? Should you invest in a new marketing campaign? Should you order more inventory? How much more? Are you pricing your products and services too high? Too low? And on and on….

If you are nodding your head and getting a sympathy stomach ache from just reading this, then you and I face similar challenges. As a CEO, I face numerous decision points that affect the success of our business on a daily basis. Some decisions have more impact than others. And while some are easy to make, others are just plain hard. Yet, even when it’s tempting to avoid or delay a decision – I’ve learned that it’s almost always better for my business and my sanity to be decisive. Good leadership is demonstrated by an ability to take the information at hand, quickly gather and evaluate any missing information, and draw a conclusion that can be acted upon.

I believe that decision making is the ultimate deliverable we all expect from leaders. As a leader, I strive to make decisions and accept mistakes as a part of the equation that will help me learn and improve in the future.  The only way that I keep my company moving forward, and have fun at the same time, is to lead without regrets.
As the new year begins, I wanted to share with you what I have learned about leadership that helps me get a good night’s sleep. It’s my hope that these tips will help you make 2013 a year to lead without regret.

Plan ahead. The start of the year is a perfect time to set goals. This means putting together a sales forecast and a budget, as well as two to five strategic objectives. By having a plan, I know where my priorities are and my decisions can be aligned to help the company achieve them.

Know your numbers. Get familiar with all your key numbers. Many times people call these Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. Yes, this sounds boring and numbers can be scary – but Cash is King, and you want to prevent a costly error from comprising your cash flow. Here are a few common KPIs many  businesses track:
Average number of days it takes to get paid (Accounts Receivable or A/R)

  • Cash balance
  • Profit margin
  • Sales per employee
  • ROI or Return on Investment – used when spending marketing dollars to make sure that you are actually driving sales from your spend

Weekly/Monthly reporting. Compare what you planned with what actually happened. The comparison will help you identify problems quickly, and make the right decisions to fix them.

Team Building. Surround yourself with smart, talented people. They help you get the right information and make the right decisions. “A” players are all about results, and are also not just going to “yes” you to death.They will work hard, and smart, and tell you what they think – exactly what a good, decisive leader needs. You can’t be successful by yourself.

Be happy. Yes, I know it sounds trite, but you should be happy to be running a business, and thrilled to be able to make decisions that affect your success. Happy people make better leaders, and happy people have fewer regrets. You won’t get everything right every time. But if you are smart, and plan, and manage your business, you will be better off than 80% of the other businesses out there.

I’ve shared the solutions that work for me and I would love to hear what works for you. What practices help you improve your leadership? What changes can you make to lead without regret in 2013?

AvatarSabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.