Business management and knowing when to say no.


17th October, 2019

In business management, it’s important to know when to say ‘no’

Saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself can be tempting for the ambitious, but it’s those that master the ability to say ‘no’ to certain opportunities who are likely to experience success in business management.

The mentality of always saying ‘yes’ to business opportunities and dealing with the practicalities later on is one that can seem deceptively beneficial small business owners in the short term.

With so many incredible business opportunities arising from serendipitous scenarios that come from being openminded, the fear of passing up on anything is a difficult one to suppress – especially if you’re a small business owner or startup founder.

At the early stages of a startup business, the struggle of breaking one’s way into the market and generating enough traction to start turning heads is real – and hustle culture demands for these founders to do whatever it takes to reach that first big break.

READ: Top traits needed by modern business leaders

But, in the mid- to long-term picture, saying yes limitlessly is something that isn’t only impossible to keep up with, but can do some significant damage to a business owner’s reputation, success and overall wellness.

Saying ‘no’ shows that you aren’t desperate

People can sense the desperation of a business owner who’s trying to break into a market. And from a customer’s perspective, desperation can be quite a turn off.

While you might be completely snowed under with work and are showing true ambition by taking on even more, always saying yes to jobs or deal terms can lead your prospective client to believe that you aren’t particularly busy – an impression that might cause them to question your quality of work and whether they want to use your services at all.

READ: How to create a positive workplace culture

Passing on opportunities that you don’t have capacity for or that don’t have terms which you are truly happy with is another way of showing those potential clients that you respect your own services and can’t necessarily take on work every job that comes across your table.

Respecting your own time and services will always cause others to respect your time as well.

Saying ‘no’ allows you to create a sustainable business model

Putting the impression and reputation issue aside, another major issue that accompanies a founder or SME owner’s inability to say no is that it can cause their business to lose its form and shape.

Competition is fierce in almost every industry, and business owners around the world are opting to develop niche and specialised offerings in order to remain competitive. Without something innovative or unique, their business just blends in with the rest of competition – making it very difficult for the business to really go the distance.

Saying no at the early stages gives the business the stamina and clarity that it needs to be more than just a fad.

By mastering the ability to say no to opportunities that don’t fit within the niche offering that an early stage business is looking to provide its customers, the founder is creating the boundaries that are necessary for expanding the offering and disrupt the industry in a sustainable fashion.

If you don’t say ‘no’ you’ll spread yourself too thin

Over and above everything else mentioned, the worst part of not knowing how to say no is that it can cause the founder or business owner to endure personal health struggles, but physically and mentally.

Early stage business owners are busy people. Time is spent looking for investors, pitching their business idea to customers, and building the people and culture elements of the business as well.

READ: 5 tactics for handling difficult customers

And it doesn’t stop there! Seeing as the average age for a startup founder is about 40 years old, many of them have families, established lives and many other commitments that keep them incredibly busy after hours too.

Every time a founder says yes to an opportunity that they don’t really have the time or resources to comfortably devote to it, it ends up coming at the expense of the time they would otherwise be spending doing things that keep them healthy – like sleeping, eating or preparing food, spending time with loved ones, and so on.

Taking on extra work to grow your business, make more money or generate more traction is certainly nice in theory, but the art of saying no to opportunities that come at the cost of your health will end up paying back dividends of far greater magnitudes.

Four questions you need to ask before saying ‘yes’

While most scenarios are subjective and difficult to mould into generic case studies, there are four questions that founders should be asking themselves before they accept a new business opportunity that presents itself to them:

  1. Do I have the time and resources to complete this project properly?
  2. Am I happy with the terms associated with accepting this opportunity?
  3. Does the work fit within the long-term vision of my business?
  4. Does this client and the job they’re asking me to do fit within my business ethos?

If the answer to any of these questions turns out to be no, however tempting it might be to take the piece of work on, don’t be afraid to say no and turn the opportunity down. Chances are that it will either make you seem desperate for work, impact the sustainability of your business model and/or negatively impact your health.

But if an opportunity presents itself and the answer to all of these questions turns out to be yes – go get ’em!