• Philip Ammerman

Making Decisions Based on Weakness



It’s December 24th and as I sit in my apartment in Limassol, cleaning up this year’s mess and reflecting on the next year, I understand more and more than many of the decisions we make come from a position of weakness rather than one of strength.


For example, I make most business decisions with reference to the market where I live and operate. But because the market is small, fragmented and largely distorted, the entrepreneurial decisions I make are due to market weakness (or structure), not due to my own capabilities or resources.


As a result, I see that my efforts (and those of my clients) are due to weaknesses in how a business model is deployed in a specific market environment.


It is good to make your business model reactive and for your strategic decision-making to be based on market realities.


But it is a long-term mistake to continually make decisions due to weakness. Doing this risks:

  • Introducing performance variables that further distort your business model;

  • Leading you to accept distorted decision-making, even in better market situations;

  • Resulting in permanently weak performance.


Let’s take an example.


Good private sector consulting opportunities are limited where I live. So, I might be tempted to bid on public sector contracts, especially given the wave of public sector procurement driven by EU funding.


But when you work on public sector contracts here, you quickly understand that:


  • Many, if not most, projects are there to absorb funding rather than lead to a sustainable, real-world result, or solve a real-world problem;

  • Awards are not transparent;

  • Qualitative counterparties needed to drive a project forward and make critical decisions are absent;

  • Decisions are usually driven by political optics or collateral benefits gained for certain people;

  • Daily rates are low; cash flow cycles are extremely long.


If I were to participate in public tenders in the long term without adapting to the public sector mindset, how long would I expect to be able to still deliver a quality consulting outcome in the real world?


How long before I end up looking like any other apparatchik in the public sector?


This illustrates decision-making in a context of weakness. The private consulting sector market is weak, so I am tempted to enter the public sector consulting market. Doing that would, in turn, only weaken me further.


If you are forced to make a decision in a time of weakness, it is vital to consider:


  1. Can you change your business and operating model to at least minimize some of the present weakness?

  2. Can you innovate to develop new value and open new horizons?

  3. If you need to operate in a zone of weakness, can you develop a parallel business model to cope with that?

  4. Can any part of your decision be temporary or reversible?

  5. What will you do to guard your longer-term competitiveness in what should be a stable and well-functioning core market?


I find that this same principle applies to relationships. I can’t recount how many of my friends find themselves trapped in fundamentally unsuitable relationships, but keep trying to resolve them through standard means that are no longer fit for purpose. The more time passes, the more unsuitable the situation becomes.


As Nietzsche said:


“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”


I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. May you make good decisions, and may you be confident in your beliefs, in the New Year.


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