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Trusting your gut: how to harness the power of your business instincts


By Oliver Jacobs, Co-Founder of UniTaskr

Everyone is familiar with the concept of ‘following your gut’ and trusting in ones’ own instincts. In business especially, many founders rely on these intuitive feelings to steer them in the right direction, or assist them with making tough decisions.

There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who cite a developed sense of intuition as a major factor in their achievements. In fact, Steve Jobs is quoted as saying: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

In the world of business, where facts, figures, and hard data is king, it may seem strange to advocate for using your gut feeling. However, relying on your instincts does not simply mean making snap judgements based on feelings alone. So, what exactly are business instincts, and how can they help you achieve your own success?

Tapping into intuitive intelligence

As an entrepreneur, you are constantly faced with making decisions that will not only affect the direction of your business, your products and services, but also your overall vision. In each of these instances, you accrue valuable experience and knowledge, and this is essentially the basis for developing a strong business instinct.

Like any skill in business, intuition is something which must be worked on and developed through action, using experience and hindsight to guide you. Listening to your gut feelings can give you direction in a seemingly difficult or even impossible situation. This is most valuable when tempered with rational analysis based on the data at hand and your current goals. This is important for refining your instincts and getting comfortable with the role your experience has in the decision-making process.

Ultimately, this is what will help you remain laser focused on the vision you have for your company, developing the good business instincts needed for strategic and savvy decisions.

Instinct over ego

While success in business requires confidence in your own abilities as an entrepreneur, it is also important to realise that arrogance can interfere with developing reliable gut feelings. Allowing ego to overtake your decision making essentially stunts your ability to build a truly entrepreneurial mindset. When you have followed your gut on a particular decision and it has not worked out, it is important to reflect on how and why this was.

Being honest with yourself, and considering where you might have done things differently is what will enable you to learn and adapt. Training your instincts is not something you can achieve overnight, so these periods of introspection are vital for building reliable instincts, and learning how to recognise and understand those gut feelings, while avoiding overconfidence and snap judgements.

When to trust your gut

Developing keen business instincts is all but vital, and choosing to ignore them can often be at your own detriment. This could be in relation to relatively isolated decisions, such as acquiring a new client when there are warning signs that this partnership is not a good fit, or investing in a piece of software or other service that adds no value to your start-up.

While these are not the be-all and end-all of your business, there are certain decisions where you simply cannot afford to disregard your instincts. For example, choosing a business partner, or potential investors. Likewise, the decision to pivot or hop onto certain market trends can have huge and long-lasting consequences, and are the sort of calculated risks that are best tempered with good business intuition.

Of course, this is not to say every decision should be based on instinct. There are certainly times when it is best to take an analytical approach, such as when combing through a legal contract. Knowing when to employ instinct is in itself a skill that comes with experience.

Balancing intuition and analytics

Business is fast-moving, and running your own business requires an ability to deal with a lot of moving parts simultaneously.  Developing sharp instincts can pay huge dividends, and it is no surprise that many of the greatest entrepreneurs have learnt to trust their gut. 

Undoubtedly, instincts have a powerful place in business, but only if properly developed and tempered with experience and rational considerations. Strike this balance, and you are well on your way to success.


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