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The Power of No for Business Leaders

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on May 19, 2015

power-of-noWhen you were young, you likely acted as most children do when a parent or a teacher said the word no—you protested, rebelled, or did whatever was forbidden anyway. That is because, according to Psychology Today, we live in a world of yes, in which we think of those who say “no” as negative, imperfect, or weak. However, those who learn how to say and hear no in business correctly are able to open up a new world of both freedom and opportunity.

When to Say “No”

...To Opportunities

As you become more successful or known in the community, you will be invited to participate in opportunities from attending conventions to speaking at an event to becoming a board member at a local non-profit.. But what happens when you become stretched too thin? The old phrase of “time is money” applies here in almost every case. If you find yourself struggling to balance opportunities and quality work time, always choose that which directly benefits your business (or you). Saying “no” will empower you to focus on the tasks, meetings, and engagements that will truly matter to your goals.

...To Potential Partnerships or Clients

Your success and efforts are contagious, and you may find yourself attracting attention from other businesses. Networking is always a plus, but there are many times when the business or partner is the wrong fit. For example, if an advertising agency that primarily works for non-profit groups is approached to work on the branding for a chain of sports bars, the agency might have to pass on the opportunity in order to focus its efforts and continue to build a stronger reputation amongst non-profits. If the two are on different pages, saying yes could lead to a disastrous partnership. Saying no could save both parties in the long run.

...To Customers

The customer is not always right. A customer that demands too much or asks for something beyond what you can provide should be told no. Placating customers’ desires only gives them more power and drive to ask for more next time. Saying no to a client especially applies during contract negotiations. By offering a straightforward, easy-to-understand deal with a detailed scope of work or service will prevent you from having to say no too much or giving in too often.

...To Family and Friends

Building a business will take much out of you and your personal relationships, especially within the first year. Turning down offers for dinners with friends or vacations with spouses can be disheartening. However, you can change the perspective by saying no with empathy. Explain your situation honestly and listen to their concerns and needs with an open mind and heart. After all, while you may need to say no, you should also consider when it is important to put aside some time to give to your loved ones.  

When You WANT to Hear the Word “No”

What happens when the tables are turned and you are on the other end of the “no?” Feeling defeated is a common reaction to being met with resistance. But a “no” does not mean that you have hit a wall completely. By turning it around to find a positive outcome, you can learn to appreciate and respect the no.

...From Prospects

The truth that all businessmen and women should come to terms with is that their business or product will not appeal to everyone. In fact, it may only attract a very small niche of customers or clients. Instead of feeling the stings of rejections, remember that hearing a no, especially a straightforward one, only narrows down the list of prospects that will work for you.

...From Employees

Employing a workforce of yes men and women has never led anyone to success. Honesty and openness are the keys to having a healthy and happy work community. Your employees should feel empowered to say “no” to you. Whether it may be your request for them to work extra hours or your proposal for a new product, your employees no’s can create a work environment that is collaborative. After all, your employees want to be a part of your success.

The Power of No

Shying away from “no” is a frequent mistake for those new to the business community. Saying “no” when it matters most means you’re growing a business with focused energy - the key to any successful business.

PCC_CLIMB_10_Digital_Resources Subscribe_PCC_CLIMB  The Oregon Small Business Development Center Portland Community College has  helped thousands of businesses over the past 30 years. We combine one-on-one  advising with programs taught by business experts, giving our clients the  resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ve celebrated many successes  with our clients. We'd love to celebrate your success. 

Topics: Professional Development, Small Business, Leadership, Growing a Business

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