It’s decision time. Do you trust your gut?

For the past three articles, I have been discussing succession planning for my son, Eric, joining our company. Rather than talk about the strategic and tactical training, today I want to talk about the intuitive training.

I have an engineering degree and earned my MBA many years ago. My entire early career was centered around projects that use pure data. I had to justify all decisions to my bosses and myself through numbers, formulas and quantifiable data. There was no gut feeling, ever. I designed truck components that would not fail. I analyzed equipment purchases by ROI. Sales efforts were directed by successful customer demographics. In those days, I only wore black and brown socks because it was easier to sort and wear.

Over the past 35 years, I have developed an internal knowledge base of my industry: the equipment, the processes, the customers, the market. The senior management team that surrounds me and drives our success follows the data-driven approach to decision making, most of the time. Our schedules are hectic and the most precious commodity is time. Sometimes we just don’t have enough of it to obtain all the data we need to make informed decisions.

I’m sure this sounds very familiar to all of you out there. Technology gives us much more data then we have had before (and faster too). However, our customers are demanding shorter lead times at lower costs. Do you have the time to even analyze every decision? I know I don’t! We can’t live in a vacuum with infinite time to make decisions. And we make more decisions daily than ever before.

So, how do I deal with all of this? I have learned to trust my gut feeling. A gut feeling is not emotional and lacking input. It is an intuitive decision because you have developed a vast knowledge base in your brain. Not all data-driven decisions have been successful and we learn from our failures. I truly believe our gut is driven by the brain’s experience. If you have been building a successful business over the years, your gut has been trained to know the right direction to steer your brain. Trust it. I have learned to trust mine. And, I don’t worry so much anymore about making my life easier by wearing black and brown socks. These days, I love wearing crazy, colorful socks that fuel my intuitive side.

In the meantime, my son’s management training program will continue based on quantitative training. We will build up his gut with years of experience, and maybe a pair of new socks on his birthday.

This is the fourth column in a series on building an effective succession planning strategy as a family business owner. Read the previous three at and search Dolf Kahle.

Dolf Kahle is the CEO at Visual Marking Systems Inc.