Learning to say ‘no’… and why you should do it more often.

As a business operator, when was the last time you said no?

I get it. Saying no to potential business can be hard to do. After all, we don’t always have the luxury of picking and choosing, and as ambitious as we are, we always want to say yes.

But, did you know that many of the most successful businesspeople out there have obtained their success due to their keen ability of knowing when to say ‘no’.

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

With so many incredible business opportunities arising from 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 operator or start-up founder.

In the early stages of any new small business, the struggle of breaking into a market and generating enough traction to start turning heads is very real – and often we feel we need to do whatever it takes to reach that first big break.

But, in the longer term, saying yes to everything, all the time is something that is not only impossible to keep up with, but can do some significant damage to your reputation, success and overall performance.


By saying ‘no’, it shows that you are not desperate.

Customers can sense the desperation of a business owner who’s trying to break into a market, and this desperation can be quite a turn off.

While you might be completely snowed under with work and showing your incredible ambition by taking on even more, by always saying yes to every job, every deal and every request, what you’re actually doing is creating a perception with potential customers that you’re not really that busy – an impression that can cause them to question the quality of your work and whether they want to use your services at all.

By saying ‘no’ to certain requests and even potential opportunities that you know that you don’t have the capacity to deliver on to the standard you would like, you are in fact showing these potential customers that you respect them, and that you respect your own services, to the point where you can’t necessarily take on every job that comes your way.

By respecting your own time, your services and the quality of your work, every one of the stakeholders that you deal with will in time develop a respect for each of these as well.


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

Let’s put issue of respect and reputation aside for a minute and focus on the core of what your business actually does. The inability of a business owner to say no can cause the business to lose its form and shape.

I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded just how fierce the competition is out there in just about every industry. That is why business owners around the world have developed niche and specialised offerings in order to remain competitive. Without something innovative or unique, a business just blends in with the rest of competition, which makes it very difficult for a business to survive for the long term.

By learning to say no in the early stages of your business, you are setting yourself up to give your business the stamina and clarity it needs to really get established, and be perceived as more than just a fad or just another ‘me too’ business.

By mastering the ability to say no to opportunities that don’t fit within your niche offering, you are creating the boundaries that are necessary to expand your offering in the future and disrupt your industry in a sustainable manner.


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

Over and above everything else I’ve mentioned here, the worst part of not knowing how to say no is the personal toll it can take on you. When your physical and mental health starts to suffer, that’s when everything else begins to suffer as well.

When trying to establish a business, we’re very busy people. There is no denying that

All that time spent looking for investors, pitching business ideas to customers, building the people and culture, and let’s not even get started on all the paperwork. With all of this comes a lot of pressure and stress.

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

Just remember that every time you say yes to an opportunity that you don’t really have the time or resources to comfortably devote to, it ends up coming at the expense of the time that would otherwise be spent doing things that keep you healthy – like sleeping, eating, exercising or spending time with loved ones.

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 far greater dividends in the long run.


4 questions you need to ask before saying ‘yes’.

Ok, let’s break it all down to four simple questions you should be asking yourself before you say yes to a new business opportunity.

  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 it 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 a resounding yes, then go for it with everything you’ve got!



Like what you’ve read? If so, please like and follow Optune on Facebook and LinkedIn for regular updates.

Leave a Reply