Blink judgment Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2010

Randy Hetrick had no pressing need to create the TRX Training Center. It was a significant investment and there was little value for all of his customers.

The gamble, which Hetrick thought would add to Fitness Anywhere Inc.’s branding, worked out. He’s amortized the investment and strengthened the company.

A key to successful leadership “is the ability to make decisions, act on them and not spend much time looking back,” says Hetrick, president and CEO of Fitness Anywhere, a provider of training products and exercise programs.

Prior to founding the company, Hetrick was a U.S. Navy SEAL. So his years of being quick to action has transferred to running his 60-employee company.

You don’t need to labor over every decision, he says. Make sure it’s an area you’re well versed, strategize with key employees and adjust when needed.

Hetrick’s philosophy has helped Fitness Anywhere grow its 2009 revenue about three times its 2008 revenue of $7 million and create key partnerships with people like NFL quarterback Drew Brees.

Smart Business spoke with Hetrick about how to make quick decisions.

Embrace quick decisions. I am a firm believer in the blink judgment principle. Oftentimes, so long as you’re qualified in the domain, and you have a lot of experience in the domain, the decision that you consider and act on quickly will be nearly as good as the one that you anguish over in committee for a long time then eventually put into grudging motion.

It’s the old military principle where the 80 percent solution executed violently now will trump the 100 percent solution executed six months from now every time.

No. 1, you have to make sure that you really do have sufficient domain expertise in the decision arena that you’re addressing. You bring in key advisers. You solicit their input. And you synthesize an outcome and you put it into motion.

I’m not suggesting that you never evaluate to see how it’s doing, I’m just suggesting that it’s important in early-stage companies not to waste time or bandwidth or get caught up in sorts of analysis paralysis.

There’s always five or six ways to do things. One of them is going to be best, one of them is going to be disastrous, and the other four or five will be pretty darn close in outcome if executed aggressively and to the fullest of your team’s ability.

Involve your team. Coming from the SEAL team tradition as I do, we actually are very aggressive in including all levels of the organization. Not just the senior people, for instance, but including someone from the tactical operational level and then someone from the strategic level, so we have a nice mix of strategy and tactical operational daily expertise involved in all the decisions that we make.

There’s oftentimes a misperception that too much of the brain power and expertise resides at the very top. A lot of decisions, probably too many decisions, get made by the top two or three people in the company when oftentimes there’s great ideas, better ideas, than you may have up in the executive suite coming from the folks that are interfacing the customer each day.

(Finding the right person for the conversation is) the function of the best fit for that particular job and the availability. There is the reality of not everybody is available all the time. We try to build some redundancy of capability in each of our departments so there’s usually not just one person who is perfect for that decision opportunity, there’s usually a few that will contribute equally well.

And I’m a big believer in giving the younger members of an organization opportunity to succeed and to stumble and learn from it. Then, they’re better for the experience.

Sit and strategize. The way this would generally work is myself or one of the other senior leadership members would frame up the issue at the start of the meeting. We’d make sure there is cross-functional representation in the meeting with people who have the authority to speak for their functions.

We’d outline the key issues, throw up a few alternative solutions that might be under consideration to get the discussion started, have a quick discussion — we try and keep all of our meetings under an hour.

Then, (release) the hounds to debate it and do some quick scenario modeling and then come out with a couple of good alternatives.

One of them might emerge as the clear solution. In the case that there’s not and there’s differing opinions, then that’s where the executives get paid to make the tough decisions. You pick one and put it into action and go forward.

Be willing to adjust. You’ve got to be willing to admit when you’re wrong and make an adjustment to the plan.

You can’t be dogmatic, or as we say in the SEALs, ‘You can only spend so much time trying to clear a bad parachute before you cut it away and go to your reserve.’ If you wait too long to make that decision, you’re going to have a mouth full of dirt.

In general, No. 1, try to be quick to claim mistakes and slower to claim credit. My guys know that, at the end of the day, I’m the one who is ultimately responsible for the outcomes. They know that they have my faith and confidence to go forth and experiment. If something doesn’t work, then we pull back, we figure out what went wrong and we figure out what we should do to make it right.

This is an early-stage, rapid-growth business, where we are moving very fast and with always a scarcity of information — that’s just the environment in which we live.

It’s a forgone conclusion that some of the time we’re going to get it wrong or we’re just not going to get it as right as we wish we’d had.

How to reach: Fitness Anywhere Inc., (888) 878-5348 or www.fitnessanywhere.com