The Impact of Timing on Business Decisions


Over the past several years, business has seen a variety of trends in a thought process designed to enhance the critical thinking and decision skills of business leaders and managers.  Everyone seemed to have developed a system or a series of options, which—if followed– would make decision-making easier, relevant, less cumbersome, and fully integrated into our business structure.

Indeed, the first book that I authored, Psyched for Life, was subtitled as ‘A New Guide for Decision Making.’

Over the past few years, we’ve teamed, we’ve tribed, we’ve linked, we’ve blogged, we’ve created content and socialized; and we’ve planned, focused, positioned, marketed, and analyzed business deals, business options, business connections and business roles.  What we often don’t address, however, is a single element so critical for success in most business deals—and about which little is said, little is taught, little is mentored… in many cases the entire reason any transaction can be successfully consummated.

Success in any venture can be attributable to the aspect of timing.  Whatever human frailties or strengths we bring to a business transaction, much of the success or failure of the venture will depend upon the timing of various elements of the transaction.

Anthony Zolezzi, in his Business2Community Article about timing and its importance to business, says, Timing is also not “everything” in the sense of being the only thing it takes to succeed. The tempo of a song may make the difference in its becoming a hit, but it still has to have musical value. A joke may not create laughter if it isn’t properly timed, but to do so it also has to be funny, and a perfectly timed casserole still won’t create raves if the ingredients are inferior. It’s no different in business.”[1]

Thousands of businesses have been started and have failed in 2013.  Many didn’t have to fail; some had excellent business ideas but weren’t able to get sufficient capital to develop the idea. Some had great enthusiasm at the leadership level and had enormous support from subordinates, suppliers, and stakeholders, but the business—for whatever reason—didn’t come together completely; some requisite necessary element required for business success was lacking.  And often, it is viewed by those that fail as the essential element of serendipitous timing.  A lack of successfully timing key elements of the business can focus on any of the key result areas of the business, because a misstep in timing in any one of them may keep the business from attaining success.

As a part of human nature, most people do not like to have negatives about them discovered. We’re often reminded of this when a new client “confesses” to a past failure they have endured.  More often than not, they will share that the “timing was simply not right for the business to succeed.”   And frequently, we’ll accept that explanation without consequence, because we recognize that many potential clients have learned by failure; clients often learn more by failure than by success.

Parties to any transaction will often say that the element of timing to any business deal is simply a matter of luck…being at the right place at the right time to achieve the right objectives.  But when we analyze the structure of a failed transaction, we always seem to be able to see what went wrong with the venture or the transaction.   “Aha,” you may say, “hindsight is 20-20.”   Besides being a truism, hindsight can always be applied with 20-20 vision, but if we could find a way to use that talent, applied judiciously, could we harness it to serve as a harbinger for challenges to come?  Of course we can.

You’ve probably known several people in your career who always seemed to know when to create a new entity; he or she always seemed to know when a positive or adverse business decision should be made; perhaps, they even knew when it was time to begin looking for a new job because they “sensed” something was happening to the position that they currently occupied.  Are all these people psychic?  Of course not.  We all know people who instinctively understand timing of events that occur in our lives are more than simply serendipitous.    Does superstition, even a deep seated fear of fate, enter into the decision grid?   A former COO from the past shared with us that, early in his work career, he had worked a job where he assisted a driver on a logging truck.  The driver pulled off the road regularly, in an effort to “change fate.” Whatever supposed demons might be waiting ahead would be denied their due that day, according to his logic. Whether or not we ascribe to the theory, it worked for the driver.

Often, we ascribe those who foresee events occurring as undergoing some type of “déjà vu”—an event having been seen or experienced previously.  With so many changes in business, it’s clear that many decisions will be able to be traced back to decisions made previously in a different setting, with a reasonable expectation of similar results.  Indeed, we often joke about making a decision the same way we did “in a previous life.”  But past experience only enables the learner to see a previous pathway, and has little to do with the timing of events that may occur.  Or does it?

About that element of the importance of timing in business—the one that is rarely discussed—we want to offer some insight.

Let’s think about developing your “Sixth Sense of Business Timing.”  This can be viewed as a talent that will assist you in making correct choices, setting correct pathways for development, and establishing yourself as a “visionary” in your personal life and professional career.

Let’s consider some ground rules on timing in business.

  • Timing in business can rarely be forced.  It can, however, be viewed as coincidental elements made to work to your benefit.  Successful business elements meeting simultaneously to achieve a positive result come together synergistically.  Think of a four way road stop, with four automobiles stopped at a four way stop.  Each could move forward; theoretically the one to the right has the right of way, but all have one on their right. More importantly to our issue at hand is that all the cars arrived at the four way stop at the same time.  In comparing this to a decision matrix, one would say that no single element had more precedence over any other.  If we compare this four way stop to our business decisions, we will see the reality that exists in our decision making.  As a practical matter, one knows in business that two of the cars would arrive, stop, and wait only a short time on the other two, then one would try to speed off into the distance to achieve a leadership or superior role or position. So timing, viewed as an attribute to business decision making, occurs when nature allows it to occur.


  • But if we accept that all the grains of sand in the universe may be aligned against us, how do grains of sand align to allow us to achieve perfect timing with a decision or reason d’etre?  How do some people seem to have that “sixth sense” with timing on all important issues?  The answer is that they don’t. It’s a learned talent, just like being able to forecast the weather successfully; just like being able to chart future performance in the stock market. It’s not perfect vision, but they learn to accept their “gift.”  The answer is that they learn to view challenges differently than others will view the same set of challenges.  They learn to look over the horizon to events that practically might occur, and integrate this mid-term horizon viewpoint into their decision-making matrix. You can do the same thing.


  •  How do you learn to look over the  says that looking beyond the horizon means looking over and beyond what could normally be seen.[2]  We must begin by thinking beyond immediate outcomes and think in longer time intervals.  Peter Drucker’s MBO Process, simply defined, gave business management three critical questions against which time horizons might be structured: “Where am I Today, Where will I be Tomorrow, How will I Get There?”[3]  In assessing congruent business situations, we have the opportunity to review and visualize the timing that each individual situation will present, and must have alternative actions ready to implement at a moment’s notice.  This is not a practical difference from what leaders do every day in response to challenges.  The key is in placing your assessment at a more distant point, and aligning the elements over which you have control into a credible package for decision-making. Once you have learned how to successfully do this, you will be able to visualize timing elements so that decision making will be more coordinated and critical key points of business and personal decisions will operate in tangent


  • What is my take away from this?   We’d suggest that you begin to review decision making in the light of the timing of various aspects of your business.  When viewed from this perspective, one will begin to see that there is a flow to the timing of critical decisions.  Decisions may be slowed down somewhat so that major decision points can be addressed simultaneously, to the benefit of the business and the executive.   One will enjoy a greater and more positive impact when the elements of business coincide and offer stronger business growth and development.





We covered this posting on our radio show, “It’s Your Business,” on The Steve Hawkins Show on 12-31-2013.  The two segments are available below:

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