John Maxwell Jones
Burgess Stores, Goudhurst, Kent

Best decision: Getting local

John: I decided to start stocking a small selection of local products when we first bought the store in 1995. It was a pretty big risk back then as, with the exception of farm shops, village stores weren't really doing local goods. However, we took a chance and started out with just three products: milk, bread and eggs. Sixteen years on and more than 300 local products later, I can honestly say it was the best thing we could ever have done. Local products are now the lifeblood of our business and have turned us into a real destination store.

Worst decision: Not installing epos

John: In hindsight I wish I had installed an epos system a few years back. At the time, I was put off by the high cost and not convinced that it would offer me enough return. I do regret that now, as I can see that it would be very useful for aiding stock control and keeping an eye on my profits. I'll certainly be regretting it when the next VAT change comes in and I have to do everything manually.

Mark Canniford
Spar, Weston-super-Mare

Best decision: Expanding the store

Mark: In 2006 I decided to expand our store to compete with a new Tesco Express that was due to open 600 yards away. Our store grew from 900sq ft to more than 1,400sq ft and so far it has achieved exactly what I hoped it would. Trade has been boosted quite considerably and we are standing up to the competition pretty well. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn't expanded. I probably wouldn't be talking to you in this capacity today.

Worst decision: Not taking any risks

Mark: I've thought through all of it equipment, store locations, staffing, symbol groups and, fortunately for me and the business, I can honestly say that I haven't really made any major mistakes. I guess the only regret I have is that I always err on the side of caution. Maybe I've missed opportunities by not taking more risks, but at the same time I'm pretty happy with my lot.

How to make the right decision
An organised and systematic decision-making process usually leads to better decisions. Here's the MindTools guide on how to make great ones 

Rule No. 1 Establish the objective what exactly do you want to achieve? 

Rule No. 2 Involve the right people consult any stakeholders appropriately, even if you're making an individual decision 

Rule No. 3 Generate good alternatives the more good options you consider, the more comprehensive your final decision will be 

Rule No. 4 Choose the best alternative 

Rule No. 5 Sense check your decision look at it dispassionately to make sure that silly errors haven't crept in 

Rule No. 6 Communicate your decision, and take action!
Shailesh Patel
Jans of Cockfosters, Barnet

Best decision: Diversifying the business

Shailesh: When a new art college opened up just a stone's throw away from my store in the 1980s I took the decision to diversify my classic CTN offer with a new range of stationery and art supplies. The change to the business and my profits was incredible. Stationery and art supplies provide much better margins than grocery products and, best of all, I don't have to fret about sell-by dates! Too many retailers get bogged down in the day to day running of their stores and don't see the opportunities around them, which is a huge shame.

Worst decision: The wrong stock

Shailesh: In the late 1980s I took a rash decision to buy in a huge amount of graphic design equipment but then computers came along and the market died a sudden death. Twenty years on I'm still left with redundant technical pens and specialist design tools. I lost about £8,000. However, the mistake taught me to thoroughly research buying decisions.

Dee Patel
Budgens, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Best decision: Reducing wastage

Dee: In the current economic climate I knew I needed to do everything possible to reduce my costs and protect my margins, and I thought that reducing wastage would be the best way of doing that. I retrained my staff so that they were more aware of wastage and the need to recycle. I introduced more seasonal products, and I listened harder to local needs. All in all, it's been a great move. I'm now saving more than £1,000 a week compared with last year, and I'm doing my bit for the environment, too.

Worst decision: The wrong store

Dee: Opening a Budgens-branded c-store in Frinton-on-Sea was definitely the worst. The store was all wrong for the area's demographic and just didn't make enough money. After months of trying I was forced to shut the store, which was heartbreaking. Independent retailers don't have the luxury of doing well wherever we open. The experience has taught me a valuable lesson: I won't buy anywhere unless it's in an unopposed high street location, or is an existing premises that's already doing well.