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    "No" is Not a Four Letter Word
    The Vault

    "No" is Not a Four Letter Word

    February 2016

    When we first start out in business, we tend to have this reflexive habit of saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes our way.  Both hungry to prove ourselves and fearful that such an opportunity will never present itself again, we jump on every chance we get -- daunting as it may be -- to seal the deal.  It’s an okay recipe for success, at least for a very short time.  The trouble is, as our businesses grow, more opportunities arise, and saying ‘yes’ to everything isn’t just daunting, it’s downright impossible.  

    A key challenge as we grow in business is prioritizing opportunities. Learning to say no prevents us from disappointing our clients, exhausting ourselves, or simply failing altogether.  But how do you do that?  How can you be sure now is the right time to say ‘no’?  Here are 3 telltale signs:

    1. You’re done.

    At some point, you just can’t take on any more work.  If your family life is suffering, sleep and health declining, stress levels soaring, and you’re not having any fun, your work/life balance is slipping away and you have to say no.  Perhaps you need to look into adding more staff or adjusting job duties within your company.  But say no to more business until you figure that out.

    1. This isn’t profitable.

    Your focus needs to be on profit-driven initiatives.  It’s tempting to jump on opportunities that seem challenging, but be wary of anything that’s complexly underpaid.  If someone asks you to speak at an event and it isn’t a paid gig and it’s not your target audience, say no.  If someone wants a “trial period” where you work and don’t get paid, say no.  Do not devalue your business by giving away your time.

    1.  It’s not what you do or who you serve.

    Regardless of your business type, you have a target audience.  If a new opportunity arises that conflicts with that demographic, you need to turn it down.  

    In addition, with every opportunity that arises, you need to honestly ask yourself if you have enough expertise to do the job.  New challenges are great, but if you can’t complete the job, you’ll ruin your image.  Say no when your skills don’t match the job at hand.

    The underlying issue is this: constantly nodding your head won’t net you the trusted relationships you need to grow your business.  Your ability to say no when it’s warranted can help build confidence among your clients that you’re the kind of partner that’s willing to have tough conversations in the interest of doing better business and achieving more results.  Do you want that reputation? Or do you want to just be the “yes man”?

    Saying no will lead to more effective business growth.  When you’re clear about where you’re going and what you do best, you gain the ability to decipher between real opportunities and dangerous distractions. Learning to say “no” could ultimately be the most powerful business decision you ever make.

    “People think focus means saying ‘yes’ to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” - Steve Jobs


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