Do You Follow Your Gut or Data?

Christina Lewellen
January 18, 2012

In working on the 2012 forecast piece for the January/February issue, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of folks in the window and door industry about what they expect for the coming year. We covered a lot of topics, as I’m sure you can imagine, ranging from the significant challenges our industry continues to face, to the overlooked opportunities that some companies are pursuing in a down market.

One comment in particular, however, stands out among the rest. One of my interviewees pointed out to me that his company is highly data driven in its decision making. In other words, his company doesn’t go with gut instinct when it comes time to offer new products or improve support materials to its distributor network. Instead, executives rely strictly on data and facts to make decisions. This, he notes, allowed his company to avoid “drinking the industry Kool-Aid” when making projections for 2011 (they didn’t anticipate growth, where many companies did) and paved the way for some successful product introductions based on buying patterns and regional preferences.

Still, this just-the-facts-ma’am approach to business isn’t the only way to succeed. Plenty of companies have built their models around industry experience and a “gut feel” for what will succeed in the marketplace. My question for you this week is where your company falls on the spectrum—is your team one of data-based decision makers or do you rely more on the collective experience of the group and follow your intuition?

Please send me an email or post a comment to share with me how your company approaches strategic decision making. Facts, gut, or a blend of both? What approach do you think is most successful in our business? 


Survey Results as of 01/23/2012 :


When it comes to strategic decision making, my company relies more heavily on:

Collective experience and gut instincts




Statistics and facts




The responses to this week's poll definitely reflects the entrepreneurial nature of the window and door industry. With nearly 70 percent of respondents relying on their gut instinct to make business decisions, we could probably venture to guess that experience in the industry and a deep understanding for customers' needs is where many window and door companies can peg their success.

Still, I do wonder if the folks who follow the facts are increasing in number compared to a few years back. Would the fact follwers have been 5 percent or 10 percent of the population during the construction boom? Do you think that if we ask the same question a year or two from now we might find that the data-driven decision makers are increasing in number? In a market where there's relatively little room for error, perhaps that will be the case.

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at

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I think data driven decisions have a definite place in making business decisions. However, I wonder if Thomas Edition did a survey to determine the statistically probability of market success for the incandescent light bulb. I, too, wonder if Henry Ford perused the market analysis report before he ventured into the Model-T concept.  Those that have a vision take the most risks and most fail.  The few that succeed are the revolutionaries in the industry and/or society.  However, since the risk is so high, I believe it makes sense to achieve some sort of balance.  As I write this, your poll indicates that 69% believe in “gut instincts” and 31% believe in “statistics and facts”.  I think that is a very good balance for business managers when making business decisions.  To put it another way:  “ I make my decisions very close to the results of the poll,  69% gut instinct, tempered with 31% of statistically support.”

Abe Gaskins, President MGM Industries

We very carefully gather data (from our sales, and customers) and continously review & analyze it to assist in our decision making, mostly in regard to how we spend our marketing / advertising dollars.  While we leave room for a bit (20%) of speculation, our 2012 plan has already been laid out.  We are intelligently positioned to change course quickly if need be but don't expect any significant surprises.

Small companies, like us, don't usually have access to the kind of data that is locally focused enough to allow us to use it to make business decisions.  In my case, I try to stay connected to my community in various ways (Rotary - City planning commissions- etc) and talk to my builder customers.

But more important, IMHO, is the postive passion of management in motivating employees.  Our competitors are "down in the dumps" over this economy.  But my salesguys go out there armed with "good news".  We were UP in 2011 and have already got the word we will be awarded a contract this year worth almost 25% of 2011 sales.  Why?  The way we *serviced* this builder in 2011.

Working with "data" allows you to stay with the crowd.  I prefer to soar with the eagles.....alone.

RoySuperior Windows & DoorsAshland & Medford, Oregon

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