80/20 Rule for Forks in the Road

In business, just as in our personal life, we often come to the proverbial “fork in the road”. Maybe the 80/20 rule for forks in the road can help with decisions. Sometimes it is as simple as choosing one of two things, but more often it involves selecting from a multitude of options. In other words, life’s not always straight forward, including when it comes to business.

The last few articles I’ve written involved using the 80/20 rule for various issues. Allow me to continue in the vein with something that frequently frustrates each and every one of us.

You Get to Choose

Choices can be difficult. Just try to Christmas shop for your spouse of teenage child. Now what you thought would be easy can be incredibly difficult.


In fact, even buying something for ourselves can be difficult to make a decision. For example, imagine you need a new pair of shoes. So, you go to the store and start looking. Now imagine you find five pairs that you like. If you’ve had this experience you know it can be hard to eliminate any of the choices. But here is a thought. See if you can set aside the two pair that you think you like the least. Then, set the other three pair side-by-side and there is a good chance one of them will stand out to you. What you have done is eliminated the distraction that the two pair you set aside created. There is a reason why websites commonly display product three to a row. Not only is it less cluttered but it also makes it easier to make a decision. So, what does this have to do with business? Read on.

What Products to Sell

Perhaps you know you need a particularly new product line. When you begin to see what various manufacturers offer you find yourself frustrated trying to make a decision and this is exacerbated by the fact that you know financially you will only be able to stock a limited number of products. You’re at that fork in the road. This is an ideal time to use the 80/20 rule for forks in the road to simplify matters. If there are five manufacturers you are considering then there is a high likelihood that one or two of them stand out to you. So, for now put aside what the others are offering. Now with only 20% to 40% the manufacturers under consideration you will find yourself less overwhelmed with the available products. In fact, when evaluating their offerings you can do some of the same process if you know you cannot carry all their products in the product line you are pursuing. If they have 100 products, try to select 20 or 30 that most interest you initially and evaluate them further, again using the 80/20 rule on them if it helps. Then after you’ve selected what you want from those 20 or 30 products you can always revisit the products that you initially set aside and pick some of those to evaluate further. The point is that decisions are easier if we deliberately limit our options.


This same process can play out in the hiring process. Say you’ve done your desired two rounds of interviewing and you find yourself struggling to make a decision as there are seven or eight candidates that you like. Again, try to pick two or three, forget about the others for now, and then start reviewing the pros and cons of the ones you selection. I think with the reduced pool to choose from you will find that using the 80/20 rule for forks in the road will simplify the process.

There is one other thing that is worth mentioning. This process will make you more confident of you final selection and give you a sense that you made the right choice.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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