This morning on a phone call, a new client said, after trying to explain what he wanted to do, “I may be over-thinking this.”
I give the advice, “Don’t over-think it!” quite often. This is not to devalue a project or the client’s opinion. And, this is not to tell people not to think about something at all. Sometimes, a client needs a little nudge to get out of his or her own way.
In my industry–branding, graphic design and web development–there is A LOT of money that can be made by enabling clients to over-think things and become indecisive to their own peril. Many consultants are more than happy to keep punching the clock, racking up the billable hours as a client requests endless revisions and/or repeatedly changes direction.
Ask yourself, “Why am I over-thinking?”
Fear often breeds indecision. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of financial ruin! Fear of what the spouse will say when he or she finds out how much of the kids’ college fund was cashed out to start or maintain the business.
Moving forward is scary. For many people, it feels safer to stay in place, mulling over choices and holding off progress, than it is to charge forward with confidence–in themselves, and confidence in the people they have enlisted to help. On some level, it is similar to staying in a bad marriage. It’s a “the devil you know” situation.
Mistrust is another factor. The client may not trust him- or herself to make the right decision. Or, they may have partners or other people–friends, family, mentors–that have been giving advice or direction, and the client may not fully trust them, either. And, while a consultant may have been hired based on a referral and good references, the consultant may not have the full trust of the client.
Inexperience also makes decisions more difficult. With no historical reference for how a particular choice may play itself out, a person can get totally stuck in the mud. It is okay to be inexperienced, but this is the time to trust the smart people around you.
All of the above. Quite often, getting stuck in the quicksand of over-thinking is the byproduct of a combination of one or more of all of the above. Lack of experience combined with a void of at least one trusted adviser and even a dash of fear can paralyze the decision-making process.
When a client’s behavior becomes inexplicable and irrational…
As a consultant, when a client’s behavior becomes inexplicable and irrational (i.e. Why are they holding up the launch of their new venture because the business cards were printed on bone card stock and not off-white?), that is a time when I have to toss out the “don’t over-think it” advice. And on occasion become a dime store corporate psychologist.
“How does this affect the business?” I might say, or, “What’s really holding you back?” And, depending on how well I know the client, a stern, “Get the F over yourself, it’s just a business card!” may be the appropriate approach.
There are plenty of decisions that can have giant consequences. Like, how a product is presented and packaged on- and off-line, and how your business is communicated to the public. These questions deserve great consideration and attention. But, once one slips into the realm of indecision for indecision’s sake, it is time to take a step back and maybe peel a few layers off that onion and figure out the true motivation. Your business and your future depends on it.
Ways to stay out of the trap of over-thinking things include:
- Be realistic from the start. Don’t get into a project or a new business without a solid grasp of what it may cost to make it happen.
- Find at least one trusted adviser with the experience to offer sound advice and guidance. Trusting that person may be more valuable than trusting yourself.
- Be honest with yourself, and those around you about what is holding you up. Don’t keep yourself, your family, your employees, and your life in limbo because you fear the unknown. Your honesty may inspire the feedback that helps you get past your fear.
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