Both Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs have weighed in on the art of saying no. For Jobs, “Focusing is about saying no”, and Buffett advised “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no’.”
Many of us fear saying this very simple word though, partly through a fear of conflict, not wanting to disappoint, and wanting to appear amenable. When you’re running a business, your reputation can be one of the most valuable things you have, so the possibility of conflict and disappointment is an even bigger deterrent.
Despite our negative feelings, learning to say no can actually have a really positive impact on your business.
You’ll never sell yourself short
Saying yes to everything can mean you’re agreeing to things you don’t actually want to do, or will struggle to fulfil. Learning to be discerning and understand your worth will stop those guilty, agreeable yeses in their tracks.
Customers are the lifeblood of your business, but despite always being right they can occasionally push the boundaries and make huge demands. Learn to say no politely and selectively, and you’ll save yourself money, time and energy. Henry Ford did it. He famously said “Any customer can have a car painted any colour they want…as long as it’s black”.
You could get a better price
Taking the first offer isn’t always a smart business decision. Saying no can open up better offers and cheaper prices. First, think about the offer and assess its value. If you know you can get it elsewhere for a lower price, it’s an easy no. If you like the service but the price is a bit high, open up a dialogue with the seller. Know a price you want, but be ready to compromise too.
You’ll set clear expectations with your staff
Managing staff is one of the trickiest things for a small business owner to learn. Many enterprises start with a sole trader, so adding staff to the mix can be a massive change. Some of the biggest challenges are performance management, recruitment, and retention – managing all this means confrontation can be inevitable. Knowing when to agree to things, and when to give a firm no, will show your staff what boundaries they need to respect.
You’ll know your worth
Saying no and yes at the right time lets other people know what is and isn’t okay with you, but it gives you a healthy reminder too! Even seasoned business owners can experience self doubt and ‘impostor syndrome’, but communicating your worth, and making sure people respect it, is good for confidence and self esteem. Saying no doesn’t have to be negative, it can be a positive assertion of what your values are.
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