How I grew to accept rejection in business


Rejection is a natural part of life but many avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, rejection is a very strong reality in business. Today, I want to help you understand this aspect of the business — not necessarily to provide you with answers so much as to ensure you don’t get hurt (too much) or take it too personally.

My clients are mostly other businesses. We tend to become an embedded team within their business. So I’ve faced rejection from both perspectives – as an external consultant and an internal stakeholder. My experiences may resonate with anyone trying to implement a new project, perhaps for the first time.

Human beings (myself included) are only comfortable with what they understand or have done before. As a strategist, I usually come in with a long list of potential changes to processes, structure and strategy. I know it can be threatening and I’ve had all kinds of reactions. When people don’t understand, they get confused. When they are confused, they can get angry.

My biggest piece of advice is to always mind the three Cs: communication, communication, communication. You have to over communicate and repeat yourself if necessary to make certain everyone involved understands what you want to achieve and why.

At first, it felt strange because I felt like I was belittling people or boring them to death whenever I repeated myself. But people need reassurance. In this sense, 50% of marketing is about educating your colleagues and key stakeholders.

Anyone who changes how things are done or implements any kind of new initiative will always encounter opposition, particularly at the start. I had to let go of wanting to be liked by everyone. You have to be willing to be the “scapegoat” behind the tough decisions within your business.

Everyone’s a critic

In running a business, I liken myself to a gourmet chef. There is a degree of quality, attention to details, and love that goes into my work every day. But my food will not suit everyone’s tastes. I am bound to upset someone sooner or later and get a tough review.

This is a fact I have learnt to accept. I’d never want to be so hardened that I can’t see genuinely useful pieces of feedback and miss opportunities to grow! That’s the definition of arrogance.

I sometimes look at people at the top of great Australian businesses and wonder how they’ve coped with the pressure and the negative criticisms. Let’s face it, criticism hurts.

What about you? How do you cope with rejections in business? I’d love to hear your stories

  • Hey Natalie and fans: a nice wee story for those fallen on hard times and thinking about giving up.
    Going from the dole to six Mil. in under seven months, is my frequent statement! As I picked myself up on boxing day ’86 and by the seventh of June on a glorious Sunday, I had arrived.

    While dreaming of a restaurant on the Hill on my 20 acres (back in 1985), I soon dotted down that I needed some $65K to make it happen. While you’re confident and compliments flood-in about your ideas, you tend to think a bit bigger and i started thinking: what if I could get my hands on, not 65K but $650K. and do so much more with the property. In no time at all, my girlfriend and I were dreaming away, lobbying for finance and 40K here, 200K there and we soon found our self putting a prospectus together for a complete Tourism resort. For a year and a half, while on the dole by that stage and still not even a restaurant up and running, I kept hearing NO and ” I’m a dreamer ” – scenario. Even had a full, front page newspaper dedicated to my complete dream project but still got No at every turn. While on the dole; every next dollar is 100% so that goes nicely hand-in-hand with the No go and No show but as you know; like a little kid, you don’t take NO for an answer because you had an interest, you believed in it so much you’ve put in all of your money and you knew it worked elsewhere. After all we were copying a prospectus from a Queenstown resort but changed the name to the town we were in and added tourist information postcards to the folder to make it all look very pretty and presentable.
    The locals didn’t want to know but one night, one guy said:” Yes, I think I may know some one who may be interested”…so, he passed it on and she passed it on and they passed it on, till I got a phone call from a listed stock exchange company and said: we’re coming down next Sunday to talk to you and look at it.
    Well well: from a $65K dream to a gamble of perhaps $650K; this company confirmed ‘starting capital of $6Million.
    In short: for a year and a half I heard NO NO NO and rejection after rejection. In the end, you stand on the hill overlooking the town, with the sunset over the ocean and movie producers couldn’t do a better job!
    Kate Bush and her song “Running up that Hill and make a deal with God” had me hating it while all I heard was No but now when I hear the song, I smile and since created this phrase: Patience is taking it’s time. It may seem to others that you are wasting your time but it’s conscious time wasting.
    You have already decided, now go and get it!

    • Wow Marcel! Beautiful and inspiring story. Good on you.

      – Aishah

  • Rowan

    You are so right Natalie, love your article!