Success and “yes” are two words that have been known to go hand-in-hand. Agreeing to take on new challenges and always responding affirmatively to the demands of entrepreneur life has become the norm for many.
However, a valuable but often neglected entrepreneurial strategy is saying “no.”
As an entrepreneur, saying “no” can be challenging and uncomfortable. What if you missed an opportunity? What if your decision to say “no” becomes the reason for your business’ decline?
These questions can be unnerving for start-ups and small businesses with limited resources. But what if greater success follows after you say the magic two-letter word?
SAYING “NO” LEADS TO BETTER PRIORITIZATION
As a business owner, you’re wired to instinctively say “yes” because the goal is to acquire clients, profit, network, and positive reputation. The state of being open and receptive is essential.
This state of perpetual openness can also easily lead you to a path of diluted focus. Your resources – energy, time, money, and focus – end up being pulled into too many different directions and you are left with poorly planned work.
To be in a position to say “yes” to the right things, you absolutely must learn to say “no” to everything that is not aligned with your goals. Regulate the use of your limited resource – your attention.
You decide to become an entrepreneur knowing that having free time will not be your default. Free time is the result of good planning and strategy from the get-go. A crucial component of a business strategy is prioritization, which involves saying “no” more often.
Saying “no” to a new partnership or an event when your plate is full is as much of a business growth strategy as placing an advert online. Ask yourself, “Will this contribute to my ultimate goal or will this be a distraction?” And, “Will agreeing to take this on teach me a useful skill for my own business goals?”
Know that you’re already doing your best to build and sustain a business. You owe it to yourself to make the process as easy for you as possible.
When you are selective with your business dealings, you:
- Know exactly what’s in store within a set time. Prioritization gives your mind the bandwidth to remember commitments with others and yourself. When there are too many concerns to address or decisions to be made because of what or who you’ve committed to, you may compromise trust, which could have been critical for the future of your business.
This 8-minute video summarizes David Allen’s best-selling book “Getting Things Done” and explains why lack of prioritization causes our mind to CREATE ideas but not HOLD them.
At the end of your workday, determine if there are any commitments you’ve taken for granted. Decide if you can continue keeping them in the next three months. Do you have any? What made you commit in the first place? Your answers to these questions can help you realize if you need to say “no” more often.
- Know WHY your business exists. Setting a limit on your daily tasks allows your brain to practice better cognition for deeper thinking Remember that not every opportunity will be fruitful.
It’s understandable to feel like you’ve lost your chance to succeed when you say “no”, however, could it be because you are afraid something better won’t come? Have you sat down, mapped out the business journey, and know that the pay-off will be worth it? When an opportunity presents itself, automatically taking it may work against you if it is not aligned with your WHY and the resources available at this stage.
When your mind is free from clutter, your desires become the centrepiece.
- Can handle detours. Planning each day to the T is counterproductive and will only frustrate you. Prioritization gives you the ability to be agile when life throws a curveball. Mohammad Ali Vakil, Master Trainer & Co-Founder of Calm Achiever said it best…
“You may find yourself renegotiating existing agreements to make room for the inclusion of the new and unexpected. If you don’t stop hugging the trees (executing the mundane to-dos) to look at the forest (reflecting on what you’ve done and what’s on the horizon), that once-in-a-lifetime kind of good fortune will pass you by. Saying “no” is actually a tough-love form of saying “yes”.
So how can you program yourself to prioritize correctly when there is immense pressure to always engage?
Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most successful businessman, has a 3-step strategy you can try:
- Write your top 25 goals.
- Circle your top 5.
- Label the top 20 you did not encircle as “AVOID AT ALL COSTS.”
The idea is this strategy is to encourage you to commit to your top 5 list and make a conscious effort to stay focused on that shortlist before even attempting to take on the remaining 20 items. This strategy is the foundation of the 80/20 rule wherein 20% of your priorities should bear 80% of the results you want for your business.
The actual challenge is not choosing your top 5, rather, saying “no” to the 20.
Solopreneurs wear multiple hats. That, in itself, is a challenge. When it comes to growing your business, keep things simple. Set your boundaries and harness the power of “no.” It may be the spark that ignites a thriving practice and a fulfilling life.