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businessman saying no

It’s a simple word, but one that far too many of us have trouble saying: no. Perhaps it is because you’ve become successful by saying yes to every business opportunity, every request that has come your way, in order to grow your business.

However, as you become more successful, new opportunities inevitably emerge and more people vie for your time. Your success no longer depends on your ability to prove yourself, but rather your ability to prioritize the many opportunities and requests that come your way. As Steve Jobs once said, “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

If your gut reaction is to automatically agree whenever a client has a last-minute request, a co-worker needs help, or a new project comes your way, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your goals and priorities.

For example, let’s say a colleague or client requests your help. It’s a quick task and will probably take only 20-30 minutes of your time. You want to help and it seems rather harmless to pitch in. However, over the course of a day, week, or month, these requests can add up, potentially steering you astray of more important, strategic tasks.

If you’re looking to take more control over your time and schedule this year, here are a few tips to help you hone the powerful art of saying no:

Identify Why Saying No Is So Hard

There are numerous emotional triggers behind our reluctance to say no. For example, maybe you don’t want to let anyone down. Or you might worry over the lost opportunities or burned bridges that could result from saying no this one time. Will you stop getting additional chances in the future? Or perhaps you’d just prefer to avoid the discomfort and potential conflict associated with not being a team player and pitching in.

It’s important to understand and manage the underlying emotions driving your actions. Keep in mind that saying no to one project isn’t about rejecting opportunities; rather, you’re weighing your priorities for a better result. Likewise, saying no doesn’t mean you’re not a nice person; it simply means you have to set your own priorities and boundaries.

Identify Your Core Priorities and Objectives

In order to say yes to what’s truly important, you need to have a firm understanding of your core priorities. Well-defined near-term and long-term objectives can help you frame your daily decisions and to-do list. Will a new project or request help you move toward these short-term or long-term goals, or will they just distract you from your ultimate destination?

Another approach is to set your two must-do goals for the day. Then, say no to any other new request until you’ve crossed those two goals off the list.

Say No and Keep It Simple

Once you’ve gotten a better handle on which opportunities to accept and where you should take a pass, the next step is learning to say no gracefully, yet firmly. This takes practice. Saying no may feel awkward and difficult at first, but becomes more natural as time goes on.

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About Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur and small business expert. She currently serves as the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs start a business, incorporate, form an LLC, and offers free business compliance tools. Connect with Nellie on Google+.

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  • http://www.eliterecruitmentnetwork.com/ James Osborne

    There is another angle to this as well, which is looking at saying no to unprofitable business in the first place. If we spend our time working on business opportunities that aren’t of value to us then we are at risk of throwing away time and resources that we need to control.

    We utilise a system in our business called a Customer Value Index (CVI) to measure where every new business opportunity that we discussing is measured across 7 key criteria that we deem make a customer or opportunity valuable.

    These might include the profit margins we are working on, the potential volume of business that might come from that client, payment terms, brand association, ease to work with and so on.

    Every opportunity gets a score out of 70 by marking each of the 7 criteria out of 10 and any customers that get a score of less than 35 we either go back to the client to renegotiate with them to improve the mark, or as Nellie says in her article, we say “no”!

    Opportunities and customers that score 55 and above become our key focus and priority as that is where the most valuable business is for us as a business.

    James Osborne, CEO of the Elite Recruitment Network and MD of Innergy Ltd

  • somparkash

    It is easily said than done. In real life it is highly difficult or even impossible to frame a standard rule of saying “YES” or “No” while I generally agree that we should properly weigh the urgency and importance of things/issues and then react whether you say “yes” or “no”, I do not agree to the thinking that we should be blunt in say “NO” to every thing and build a record of 1000 NOs. My philosophy is that unless a demand is costing us money or time which is unproductive we always try to accommodate things/persons. However, I also recall the famous quote “I DO NOT KNOW THE STEPS FOR SUCCESS. BUT SAYING;’YES’ TO EVERYTHING IS SURELY LEADING US TO FAILURE” Hence it is a debatable issue.

  • http://www.socialsinergy.com/ Adam Dukes

    Excellent read. This is something I struggled with a lot at the beginning, but am getting better.

    …”it simply means you have to set your own priorities and boundaries.” This i spot on and so very true. We have to realize saying “no” means setting our priorities and boundaries, not burning bridges, hurting anyone’s feelings or being looked at as a bad person.