Skip to Content

This CEOs best tip for making tough business decisions


MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is the biggest leadership lesson you’ve learned in the past year? is written by Pam Nicholson, CEO of Enterprise Holdings.

Our company has always been known for its promote-from-within policy, which not only develops employees but also fosters a deep bench for management succession. Our Enterprise management training program operates much like a traditional baseball farm, grooming entrepreneurial college graduates while also helping to instill loyalty and embed institutional knowledge throughout the organization. My career is no exception – I began as a management trainee in a car rental branch, and quickly learned that being held accountable is one of the most effective ways way to learn tough business lessons and create strategic intuition for new challenges.

In fact, one of the biggest leadership lessons I personally learned along the way is that companies rarely get credit for mistakes that don’t happen and problems that are sidestepped. For example, as Enterprise Holdings continues to expand its network and international reach, we’ve spent the last year “connecting the dots” geographically, culturally, technologically and legislatively. Not too long ago, we could limit our due diligence to just one region or particular business line. But in today’s climate, long-term success and industry leadership requires calculated decision-making with a genuine global context and an issues-management mindset, whether we’re talking about local and airport car rental, car sharing, ride sharing or any other urban mobility/transportation option. As a result, we recently had to walk away from a complex deal and instead look for other opportunities.

Needless to say, there are never any “high-fives” when a deal falls apart, especially after a long period of research, analysis and negotiation. But it’s a lesson we learn over and over again, because local decisions and initiatives can inadvertently impact other subsidiaries, and can even influence public-policy matters and headlines around the world. In other words, what doesn’t happen can often be just as important as what does – and that is as true for our company today as it was when I was a new trainee more than 30 years ago.

Read all responses to the MPW Insider question: What is the biggest leadership lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

What every business leader can learn from Boston’s failed Olympic bid by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

The No. 1 reason companies fall apart by Stacia Pierce, CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises

Oracle’s Co-CEO: Leaders need to ask tougher questions by Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle.

What millennials can teach CEOs about leadership by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson: One of the biggest lessons she learned this year by Marillyn Hewson, CEO, chairman, and president of Lockheed Martin.

How CST Brands’ CEO overcomes resistance to change by Kim Lubel, CEO, chairman and president of CST Brands.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s secret to a successful career byGinni Rometty, CEO, chairman and president of IBM.

Mondelez CEO says this is why managers need to be more transparent with employees by Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez.