There’s a lot of advice for small business owners to learn to say no. To prioritize our workloads, to avoid hastily jumping into activities without a plan for gain.
It’s hard to follow that advice, especially when we most need it. And when launching a business – swamped with to-dos, events, and life – we always need it.
As we grow, we set patterns: busy periods and way-too-much-time-for-Twitter periods, and rinse-and-repeat activities that build and cement our business and relationships.
And then, we start to get restless. Everything is under control, but not yet quite the way we’d like it.
We consider and then begin rearranging our schedules, eliminating the unnecessaries, fine-tuning our processes.
When we’re done, we’re still restless.
What happened? We’ve said all our no’s. It’s time to start saying yes.
I honestly don’t believe the reason small business owners stay small and struggling is because we’re not saying no often enough. I think it’s because when we’re in the thick of the forest we planted, all we can see are the trees growing around us.
We love each and every one of them, tend them year after year, water them lovingly, but in the end, that forest has the same number of trees we planted years ago. And looking at the same trees for that long – although it’s hard, busy work – starts to give us an itch.
It’s a hint that it’s time to say yes to something new.
Checking out that networking group you’ve heard good things about? Yes.
Sponsoring a local charity to start filling in both your publicity and your warm-fuzzy quota? Yes.
Writing the ebook you’ve never felt you had the time to research properly? Yes.
Running for office at your favorite professional association? Yes.
Hiring a consultant to help you get to the next level? Yes.
I don’t want to leave you with just an itch, though.
There’s a difference between making a growth-oriented business decision and being impulsive.
Pay attention to the details. Which areas of your business need attention – still, after so much time and so many promises to fix them?
Deciding to do something “different” isn’t going to fix it. Only fixing it will. And it will pay off, too.
Know what you want. Your chosen new venture may be exciting, but will it really benefit your business?
If not, will it benefit you, personally? Will it get in the way of your goals a month from now? A year?
How much time and money are you willing to invest? If you can define those quantities, it will be easier to make a commitment you can control.
Which yes can expand your forest?
Photo credit: Natalia Buckley, courtesy Flickr, CC 2.0.
Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web. You can also connect with her on Twitter.
So... I'm not trying to split hairs here, but I've been in the position of not saying "no" enough, and I do think that's something all of us, business owners or not, need to remember. My question to you is: is the flip side of saying "yes" to the right things, saying "no" to the wrong things?
@ShonaliWell... The inverse of that is: the flip side of saying "no" to the right things" is saying "yes" to the wrong things. Looked at that way, I don't think so. Both saying yes and saying no when appropriate are essential partners, but I don't think they always come one-or-the-other, like a flip of a coin. Just because we've said "yes" to one right thing doesn't necessarily mean we've automatically traded in or said "no" to a different, wrong thing, and vice versa. It's not so much a trade-off as just learning which card to play when, IMHO.
And the context is different every time we make these decisions (you know, when other people get involved or are watching, or life makes it hard to choose for whatever reason) but we still have just the same two cards. So it can get a whole lot more complicated than my blog post implies, basically.
... if any of that made any sense...
I can add something here...make the investment to better your brand. I spent a goodly sum on integrating the blog with the website (something absolutely necessary). I was dragging my feet with some paltry excuse and afterwards good things began to happen. Don't scrimp on presenting yourself in the best light.
Definitely--we can all get by by scrimping, but "getting by" isn't the plan. Achieving our professional dreams is the plan. No scrimping.
What a great post! Knowing how to differentiate when it's good to say yes and when is the appropriate time to say no is very important. If you're saying no for the wrong reasons...i.e. fear of taking a risk that perhaps you should be taking then "no" isn't the magic answer after all. "Yes" seems to get a bad wrap sometimes, thanks for reminding us that "yes" and "no" are not the enemies, it's our own fear that holds us back!
@rachaelsedaYou touched the point that's probably behind this point: whether it's "yes" or "no," don't be afraid of it--it'll set you free! Thanks, Rachael.
The reason I am here today vs still in Industrial Sales is my last Sales Manager was horrible. He was timid, averse to risk, had no cojones, and was a weasel. And we were in a risky business. We sold things that did not exist yet. Specially designed valves and motion sensors that went on thinks like rockets, satellites, missile defense, hydrogen cars, life saving medical devices. We made things that if they failed in use millions of dollars went up in smoke.
yes when I saw new markets he sabotaged my work because he had decided he didn't want to take the risk. And I left over that.
Learning how to say yes is very important. If you look at every person or business you admire they all took risk and said yes. In fact next time you use you IPhone thank Steve Jobs for being a Yes person vs a No person.
@HowieSPMI've a Macbook I'm very grateful for, but no iPhone yet. And how can you be a sales manager and be averse to risk...? Glad you bailed off that sinking ship, Howie.
Kiitos, Kaarina! That's one new sapling I'm tending in my language forest; thanks for the seed.
@ShakirahDawud olkaa hyva:)
@ShakirahDawud @KDillabough now that I am mostly a vermonter and my future in laws are total greenies I learned that in the 1800's all of Vermont was clear cut except for the very mountain tops. And now it is almost 100% forest again. Same with the Adirondacks in NY they were mostly rocky mountains and we grew a forest on them.
In fact the US, China, Russia, and Canada are adding forest at quite a nice rate. Not sure if it balances the loss of rain forest though.
Lovely post, Shakirah! We seem to be on a similar wavelength. I attended a creative forum several weeks ago where we talked about saying "yes" to things (and how saying "no" sometimes is a way of saying "yes" to those things).
@Erin F.Good point: "no" can be one way to say "yes" to something else. It's true that "no" doesn't necessarily mean "Slam the door shut, we're done talking here."
Well stated, Shakirah. You're right in that "no" has been the mantra preached in time management courses, etc., for eons. And, more often than not, the business leader...large OR small...who adheres to this credo sooner or later winds up in a situation where help truly is needed...but he or she doesn't know how to say "yes" to offers of assistance.
Now...if I could only master the art of the "no"!
Aha, there's a perfect example, Kirk--it's a shame when an otherwise healthy establishment ends up putting blinders on because no one is willing to do ANYthing new, even when the ship starts to sink. It happens in a lot of situations where a charismatic leader turns into the be-all, end-all of every decision.
All stuff I need to keep in mind. I had to step back and learn to say "no", and now I need to relearn how to say "yes".
@KenMueller Me, too, Ken--saying "no" is empowering, but I've often forgotten how much more powerful we can be with a judicious "yes."
@KenMueller you need to write a post for tomorrow Say Yes to Facebook Howie. To counter my thrashing of the glory for MTV having 100mil total fans in post for tomorrow.
BTW I actually uploaded a photo on facebook today Ken and I actually allowed an APP to have access in support of a @chobani fan's efforts to trade 5 cases of yogurt for a remodeled kitchen. So I said Yes today.