Jim Cuorato | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jim Cuorato


The Independence Visitor Center Corporation is the standalone nonprofit that oversees and operates Philadelphia's Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market streets, as well as the City Hall Visitor Center. The sites serve as a starting point for tourists visiting Independence National Historical Park, as well as the region’s many other attractions. 

The Mistake:

I had a long career in city government—almost 30 years with the city in various different departments before I took this job with the Visitors Center. And from those experiences, my teachable moment was the realization that decision-making is one of, if not the single most important function that a leader has to undertake. It sounds kind of obvious, I guess. But what I've seen over the years is there can be a lot of times when good ideas come to the surface, but then people want to step back and slow down and study them, maybe even over-analyze them. And many times, that means those good ideas never come to fruition—simply because there was no decision made, because nobody was willing to step up and say, "Yes, let's do this."

Government tends be very deliberative. My years working in government taught me that government moves a bit more slowly at times than you might be accustomed to dealing with. You are working with legislative bodies, and they have to very carefully consider projects and different programs, and in many cases, there's nothing you can do to speed that process up. I've watched it happen. That's just the way the government operates. But when I was placed in a position where the decision was within my bailiwick, where I was able to expedite or move something along more quickly, that's where I felt I was able to make a difference. 

You have to have the courage to make a decision.

The Lesson:

What I eventually came to realize from these experiences is that, when you are approaching a big decision, yes, you need to gather all of the information you can. You need to consult with your staff, or your board members, or whoever else you need to talk to. But then you need to go ahead and make a decision, one way or the other.

For me, that has been something that has helped me throughout my career. When I'm asked to speak to students, which I do fairly frequently, and I'm asked for advice, that's usually the advice I offer: that you have to have the courage to make a decision. It's very easy to put that off, or put it aside, or leave it for somebody else to decide. But when you're in a leadership position, you need to gather as much information as you can, make your decision, and then move forward. 

That's what I tell students. Making that decision is not often the easy path. It's much easier to tell yourself you can deal with it later, or say, "Not now." But I always encourage the people that I talk to not be afraid to make that decision. Look, you're not going to be right all the time. But you have to have the courage to make the decision, and believe in what you say you believe in. 

Follow the Philadelphia Visitor Center on Twitter at @PHLVisitorCntr.

Pictured: Jim Cuorato | Photo courtesy of Independence Visitor Center Corporation.