Tweak Your Biz

Home » Management » Want A Successful Small Business? Learn The Fine Art Of Saying “No”

Want A Successful Small Business? Learn The Fine Art Of Saying “No”

In order to be successful as a small business owner, you need to internalize the power of “no.” This two-letter word has the ability to create value, conserve resources, and ultimately define your business- but only if you use it properly.

Many small business owners these days look like they’re running a very long and hard foot race. I can see the sweat on their brows as they scamper along with heads bent down intent on expanding their portfolios, building their reputations (online and off), and developing their brands, all while juggling the ever-increasing demands of social networking: Engage, Follow, Friend and Be Friended.

The underlying push behind all this effort- the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick- is to offer customers more for less, because these business owners mistakenly believe that is how you create perceived value. After all, we’re in a strong buyer’s market; aren’t most consumers looking for a good deal these days?

While there is definitely a time and place for freebies, pro bono work, discounting, and the investment resources without an immediate pay back, the assumption that this is the way to create value is off.

It is a fundamental truth that precisely in those places where you draw the line, that is where all the real value of your business lies. Here is where the power of “no” comes in. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but learning how to say no allows for growth and development. To the extent that you can learn to set effective, well-placed limits, then to that extent you give your business the space to develop and expand and yes, increase profits.

I will illustrate this point with three very common situations:

1. You find yourself constantly helping other people or businesses with free advice, promotion, or information.

While these kinds of actions are a necessary part of networking and drawing interest to yourself or your site in a no-obligation way, you should nevertheless choose your engagements wisely. Not only will you save yourself a great deal of time and energy that could be directed to other, more profitable areas of your business, but you will also avoid cheapening your product or image. If you attach value to your work by assigning a price to it, then guess what? Your customers will be more likely to value it also.

2. You take on projects that require too much effort with too little return.

Avoid the urge to hold on to every customer who walks in the door. If a certain job or client is sucking up too much of your time and resources, then walk away. And another point: Don’t agree to do a job at a certain price only to wake up afterwords and find out that you charged too little. Do yourself a favor and conduct a little research before offering a price on a new kind of project or service-especially if you are just starting out.

3. You spend an inordinate amount of time doing grunt work with little to show for it.

Though this kind of situation may show up in several different ways, I want to focus attention on online marketing and social networking in particular. Just about any social marketing guru will tell you it takes time to build a loyal following- the kind of following that will buy your products or services and spread your message to their own contacts. There is definitely truth to this. But that doesn’t mean that you should throw you actions to the wind and see what happens. Plan your online marketing strategies carefully, and use whatever Return on Investment (ROI) measures and analytics that are available to you. Where an initiative is taking up too much time, or providing little current or potential value, then drop it.

Bottom line: success in business requires that you be in touch with your core strengths and that you offer what makes you valuable in a valuable way; and sometimes that means you just have to say “no.” Thoughts?


Adam Gottlieb is a small business owner, freelance writer, and small business consultant with over ten years experience helping small and home-based businesses improve their image, increase sales and better manage their resources (both the animate and inanimate ones). You can find him blogging at The Frugal Entrepreneur and Growing Your Business http://frugalentrepreneur.com/

Similar Articles
Comments
  • Great post Adam. Welcome to Bloggertone!nYour point number 2 is crucial. We learnt it the hard way with a couple of projects in 2009. Once you know the work involved in developing X service, it doesn’t matter if the competition are doing it at a lower price. Simply explain better your USP and customers will be more than happy to pay more for that value.

  • Adam Gottlieb

    Hi Fred,nnYou bring up a good point that I’m just going to amplify: *you* recognize and believe in the value of what you have to offer, and are therefore able to sell it (successfully) to your customers.nnThanks for the comment… and the welcome.nnAdam

  • Adam Gottlieb

    Hi Fred,nnYou bring up a good point that I’m just going to amplify: *you* recognize and believe in the value of what you have to offer, and are therefore able to sell it (successfully) to your customers.nnThanks for the comment… and the welcome.nnAdam

  • Brilliant post Adam and welcome to Bloggertone. As I read this post, I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through. In the last few years, I’ve had to realise pretty much everything that you’ve said here, to the point where I am now entirely selective as to who I will and won’t work with. There is however one place where I will often take a slightly different strategy and that’s online, the reason: because the actions I take or the words that I write are seen by many more eyes than just those of the person they are directed towards. In other words, I will help a person I don’t really want to work with because someone I that I would want to work with is likely to be watching or will see later.

  • Adam Gottlieb

    Hi Niall,nn”There is however one place where I will often take a slightly different strategy and that’s online, the reason: because the actions I take or the words that I write are seen by many more eyes than just those of the person they are directed towards”nnA hundred percent.. but *even* here I think most people would benefit by considering the actual potential gain before committing their time and effort- especially when it has to do with something online. It’s so easy to get sucked in to making another comment, answering another question, and writing another post, another article… There’s got to be a overall plan and some limits.nnAdam

  • Facundo

    Welcome to Bloggertone Adam. Very thoughtful post. Specially for those of us involved in social media. It’s very true that many of us assume wrongly that, as you say, giving a lot for free IS the way to create value. I guess we all need to get more selective with those gifts. Nice pointers.

  • Anonymous

    Great post! nnYour first point is a very challenging one. There is such an emphasis on giving content or expertise away. The message seems to be that you are somehow wrong or greedy to want to be paid. After all, we now have the word, freemium. Never mind the book, Free by Chris Anderson. It becomes a dilemma for many small business owners to determine when to charge for something. It really feeds into your other points as well. If a small business owner doesn’t choose the value of what he/she offer, then it follows that he/she will give too much away, undercharge, do too much and find himself/herself chasing his/her customers.nnThis can create a negative spiral for some. When one is feeling under pressure, it can undermine your confidence which leads to poor presentation or just accepting anything that comes along. It may feel risky but defining for oneself what one will and will not tolerate can be liberating. After that, the small business owner can set the balance between give-aways, discounts, standard and premium offers.

  • Anonymous

    Great post Adam, I agree 100% with you, particularly on managing your social media. It is far too easy to have all your time sucked up without getting a return. I’m a strong believer in measuring the effectiveness of absoloutely all activity, including social media. nnOn your other points, I’m of the ‘givers gain’ school of thought but can absolutely see your point. Its all about communicating the value of what you’re doing and understanding exactly what value you’re delivering to somebody else. The trouble with many knowledge based businesses is that the line gets blurred as to when the clock starts. It’s down to the provider to draw and highlight that line.

  • Great post! I guess not all strategies are right for every business but you got a point!

  • Great post. Freelancers and small business owners need to know their worth, what they are good at and what makes them happiest- and choose projects with those core values in mind. Also check out this related post I wrote on how telecommuters and freelancers can learn to say no to favor-seeking friends and neighbors: http://blog.psprint.com/designing/just-say-no/.nnBritt Brouse

  • Adam Gottlieb

    “The trouble with many knowledge based businesses is that the line gets blurred as to when the clock starts.” nnI wonder if that is so true these days. There are very few unconquered territories online. For someone who really wants to know when the “clock starts” there are plenty of people to ask who have already made it to at least give them an estimate to shoot for.nnThanks for the comment…nnAdamn

  • Adam Gottlieb

    Hi Elli,nn”It may feel risky but defining for oneself what one will and will not tolerate can be liberating. After that, the small business owner can set the balance between give-aways, discounts, standard and premium offers.”nnYes, a hundred percent… Though, I just want to point out that some of the process of defining what is and isn’t tolerable, the small business owner can do at the beginning, while most of it will be a learning experience… the difficulty with the Internet/social media is that the bar of tolerance is set very high and it may take a while before someone realizes that too much is being done.nnThanks for the comment,nnAdam

  • Great post Adam, nice introdcution to Bloggertone. I’ve tended to be guilty of no. 1 and these days I am more aware of it and less inclined to do it. Being able to say no is important in all walks of life, why should business be any different?

  • Hi Adam, a hearty welcome to the Bloggertone gang!!nI get so much quality advice and sharing on SN sites, that I am always happy to pass on and share information also. But once a Q&A becomes a Q&A session, it’s time to reign in.nnValuing one’s own service/business is paramount for a successful business. I am sure most business owners have offered pro bono work at some stage, but that needs to stay where it belongs – the beginning stages (or as a special favour). If we do not value our service/product, how can we expect our customers/clients to?nnLooking forward to hearing more from you at Bloggertone 🙂

  • Niall, an excellent post… clearly the day of eating a good meal at a good price with nice service seems to be under attack…. nnOne has to wonder after the first rush of people waving coupons has passed how many businesses could continue to offer such reductions and remain in the black… there is also the other side of the coin is that those who eat in one restaurent today will be eating in another tomorrow, how many will really return? will you be returning to any that you have eaten at?

  • Anonymous

    I’ve had both good and bad experiences with Group Deals and I agree, there is no point participating if your going to give anything but the best service and food you can offer. u00a0There is one restaurant I’llu00a0definitelyu00a0go back to and another that I’ll tell others to avoid like the plague. u00a0When cashing in your vouchers becomes a painful part of the process you always go away with a bad taste in your mouth. u00a0I had to leave two friends in a long conversation with a bar man so that I could get the last train home… needless to say I won’t be recommending that venue again.n

  • Anonymous

    Personally I haven’t availed of many of these offers as the last time I checked many of them are centred around Dublin. u00a0Perhaps that has changed recently. u00a0I think that in our current economic situation people are going to try to take advantage of whateveru00a0bargainsu00a0are out there, so I guess it doesn’t come as au00a0surpriseu00a0if people just move from offer to offer. u00a0Maybe this is just the wrong economic climate for businesses to reap the rewards of repeat business that these offers might bring.

  • Anonymous

    Personally I haven’t availed of many of these offers as the last time I checked many of them are centred around Dublin. u00a0Perhaps that has changed recently. u00a0I think that in our current economic situation people are going to try to take advantage of whateveru00a0bargainsu00a0are out there, so I guess it doesn’t come as au00a0surpriseu00a0if people just move from offer to offer. u00a0Maybe this is just the wrong economic climate for businesses to reap the rewards of repeat business that these offers might bring.

  • Yes people are now looking to spend their money wisely but I remain unconvinced that all or even most people are just simply moving from offer to offer.u00a0I think businesses that are partaking need to realise that there is a significant difference between value for money and cheap

  • For me, the most marketingu00a0serious tool that any restaurant has is word of mouth, offline or online! Restaurantsu00a0who combine group deals with bad service are doing huge damage to themselves, many without realising. They have got too understand that online is a potent tool, but it works both ways.u00a0

  • No I won’t even though that was partly objective, to find new places to eat in. Frankly, I’m usually really bad when it comes to shopping around for new places to eatu00a0because once I find somewhere good, I like to stick to it.u00a0The real winners in this are the restaurants I already know to be good.

  • Bad business people run bad businesses & I haven’t seen muchu00a0evidence latelyu00a0of the recession doing much for customer service standards here. If youu00a0approachu00a0group deals as some kind last throw of the dice, it will end up adding plenty water to an already sinking ship :)u00a0

  • Thank you John, glad you liked it 🙂

  • Great post – our facility has now just done it’s second offer with Groupon, to great success. However went along the lines of your advice Niall and we had a strategy of customer acquisition, up-sell, follow-up, and we also made sure that all guests who took the offer were treated just as well as our full-paying guests. We also really plugged TripAdvisor too and we’ve got some brilliant feedback there too.nnI totally agree with the point not to rush into it blindly as whilst it sounds very attractive to have many hundreds of extra customers through your door, if it’s not managed properly it could put your lights out.nnAgain really good post, thanks for writing itnnAidan BreslinnDerrynoid Centre

  • Thanks Aidan, great insights!u00a0nnYou guys used it the way it should and you are seeing the benefits, Iu00a0particularlyu00a0like plugging TripAdviser, that was a smart move, Well done and thanks again for sharing your story.u00a0nn- Niall

  • Tremendous concepts on this web site. It’s rare these days to find websites with data you are seeking. I’m happy I chanced on this webpage. I will certainly bookmark it or even register for your rss feeds simply to be updated on your new posts. Maintain up the nice job and I’m sure some other folks researching valued information will actually stop by and benefit from your site for resources.

  • This post is very good, rich tourist resources, a wide choice with beautiful environment. By the way I know some websites very well. Such as Hurry up and look at it, more surprise waiting for you!nu00a0




Featured Author
Subscribe
© Copyright 2009-2017, Bloggertone LLC. All rights reserved.