Saying no is quite possibly one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to learn.
Why? Most new business owners spend a lot of time chasing opportunities. So when one is presented to them, it’s hard to turn down. Especially in the early days, when there’s the worry about getting any clients at all, they feel practically obligated to take any opportunity that comes along—it just might help build the business, and they’ll do anything to make that happen.
The inclination to say yes to everything is understandable. But sometimes, it’s equally important for an entrepreneur to say “no.” It’s okay…really! Saying “no” isn’t a display of negativity. It’s a positive action that you can take to protect yourself and your business.
Too many “yeses” can leave you feeling over-committed, unfocused, burnt out, and depleted. So, if you’re an entrepreneur, or an aspiring one, here are instances when “no” can be the most important word in your vocabulary.
1. Say no to difficult clients
When you have a stressful client – one that is more trouble than they are worth, or one that doesn’t pay on time, it can be beneficial to limit your commitments with them or discontinue the relationship altogether.
Keep the line of communication open by setting boundaries on what you will and will not accept and clearly state you company policy upfront. This will reinforce, not ruin, your relationship. At best, it will weed out those you shouldn’t work with anyway.
2. Say no to overtime
When you work in your own business, time can slip away and you end up working long hours. As a result, you overlook your well-being, personal life and relationships.
Learn to manage your time more effectively. Set work hours and enforce them. Let your clients and customers know your work schedule and when you plan to go out of town or take a vacation. If a client is willing to pay for overtime, you may be able to justify this sometimes-necessary burden by charging a bit more in order to complete the job.
3. Say no when it’s not profitable
You are in business for many reasons, but nearly everyone — founders and employees alike–is in to profit. Not all profit is related to money, although young entrepreneurs should take note that consistent monetary profit does help your sustainability and your valuation.
Sometimes a transaction can pay off in connections, exposure, learning, satisfaction or, yes, money. But when a transaction does nothing t better the people involved, then the word No! should be used.
4. Say no to people looking for freebies
When clients ask for a discount, a freebie or a special deal, think twice before you concede. You know what it takes to do your job properly and what you need to make in terms of income. Don’t let their request sideline your own goals or jeopardize your work ethic or reputation.
Be clear as to why you are worth the price. If you feel compelled to give a discount, do so because you can or you really want the business. Or try asking for something in return, like a new client referral, a larger order or a long-term contract. Make it a win-win for both of you.
5. Say no when you can’t meet expectations
People are often optimistic about how quickly and how well they can get things done. Combine that hopefulness with the desire to please a customer, and you are left over-promising and under-delivering.
Save yourself from being called inefficient or a bad business person and say just say No! to what you know you can not do. Be accountable and manage expectations. Whatever you do, don’t say yes to get the deal signed if you’re assuming that, once the prospects are in the door, they’ll have to adapt to your change in quality, timing or price. After they realize what’s happened, few will come back to say yes and do business with you.
What instances have you had to say no in the course of running your business? Share your thoughts!