The value of saying no

3 min read

6 effective ways to say no without stunting the growth of your small business

As a business owner, you often feel the need to throw yourself into every opportunity. After all, saying YES will make you more money - right? Not exactly.


Learning how to say no will be one of your most valuable skills in the early days of developing your business.


The more you start saying no, the more time you have to say yes to the things that really matter.


Here are six great ways to say no next time you find yourself in a sticky situation:


1) Saying No To Future Collaborators


Collaborators are your launchpad to growth. But you may not always be in a position to fully commit your time, resources and heart. In these circumstances, the key here is to turn down the offer but keep the doors open for future collaborations.


Why don’t you try saying something along the lines of “Thank you for thinking of me. This sounds like an exciting opportunity but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Shall we reconnect in a couple of weeks?”


2) Saying No To Loyal Clients


You will always go above and beyond to keep long-term clients happy. But what happens when they start requesting more work than you can handle? You may be worried about angering, disappointing or even losing them.


But psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert suggests softening the blow by returning the power to your clients. You might say “I'm happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritise them?"


3) Saying No In Meetings


Trust us - saying no will become easier the more you practice. But when it comes to group environments and social pressures, sometimes even the strongest start to crumble.


Michelle from the Youtube channel Skillopedia recommends sharing your unavailability within the first five minutes of a meeting: “Look guys, just so you know my week is booked with urgent projects and I won’t be able to take request but am happy problem solve some solutions now”.


4) Saying No Over Email


They say your inbox is merely a ‘to do’ list of other people's agendas. Tim Ferriss, creator of the 4-Hour Work Week, suggests the brilliant idea of setting auto-response emails to ease the load. These will not only remind your clients of your busy and vibrant schedule but also may filter out smaller jobs. Take a look:


Greetings friends,


Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to email twice daily at 12:00pm and 4:00pm. If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait please contact me via phone at 555-555-5555. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.


Sincerely, [Your name]


5) Saying No Face-To-Face


Saying no comes as a natural response when you have your priorities and business in mind. But declining someone who really wants your help is still hard. One solution is this tried and true method of asking them to send you a reminder.


Vanessa Van Edwards, behavioural investigator from The Science of People recommends saying something along the lines of “Hey, would you mind emailing me or texting me about the details and I’ll look at my schedule”.


6) Saying No To Distractions


Life’s a balancing act and you’re the only one that fully understands the demands of your time. But when your personal life floods your business life (and vice versa), you need to establish clear boundaries.


For example - your friend asks if they can visit to play Xbox because you now work from home. Or your sister’s organised a spontaneous dinner the night before an important business presentation. In these situations, the best answer is a polite and simple “No, sorry not this time. I’m working on making my small business awesome! How about next week?”


Honcho Hint - Are your customers saying ‘no’ to your small business? Read our article How to win over difficult customers.

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