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Productivity / Problem solving

Five occasions where it’s ok to say ‘no’ in business

Part of growing a successful business means servicing your clients to the best of your ability. But does this mean doing everything they ask of you?

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Launching a business is difficult. Growing your business is difficult. You want to make sure your clients are happy because their happiness is essential for business right?

So you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to everything that’s asked of you, the consequences be damned!

Unfortunately, those damned consequences are usually pretty dire: burnout, resentment, loss of love for your business … the list goes on!

Which means, as heart wrenching as it is to say ‘no’, sometimes you have to say no to clients for the good of your business (and yourself). But how do you know where to draw the line?

Today I offer up to you five occasions where it’s ok to say no to clients:

1. When you cannot safely or properly manage the timeframe available for the work/job

It seems in the age of the internet, everyone expects everything yesterday: faster, immediately and without delay! Worse, clients often operate under the misapprehension that their last minute non-planning should become your problem.

This doesn’t mean you’re obliged to deliver on unreasonable expectations. If you’re unable to provide a quality project/product in the requested timeframe, say ‘No’ and discuss what you can manage.

"As heart wrenching as it is to say ‘no’, sometimes you have to do to it for the good of your business (and yourself)."

For example, a compromise might be to deliver part of the work to help your client with their immediate issue and offer the rest of the work in a manageable timeframe for both of you.

2. If a client or customer is demanding all your time and energy to the detriment of other clients or your business

You cannot be everything to everyone and you need to focus on the big picture. If all your time is being monopolised by one client, it means you’re providing sub-par service to all your other clients. This is not good for the long-term health of your business!

In this situation I suggest quitting while you’re ahead. Suggest someone else that particular client might be better suited to working with and move back to servicing your other clients at the level you prefer.

3. When they ask for a discount

Does it seem like everyone is asking for a discount these days? It does to me! Due to geographic diversity and the ability to deliver goods and services for less, many businesses are doing just that and trying to compete on price. But is this sustainable? Most likely it’s not sustainable for you.

So once you have worked out your pricing model for your business, stick to it.  Offer the best possible price up front and don’t discount. People will pay for a quality service they trust and can rely on.

4. When it takes you off the path

If you’re being asked to do something that takes you away from your core business and other higher priority items, it’s not helping you or your business to say ‘yes’.

The other day I was asked by both a former colleague and another client for some assistance in an area I used to work in. I looked at the new policy statements and new legislation and decided it would take some time to come up to speed on the recent legal updates. It would also take me away from my main business focus.

Further, it was not part of my core business direction (helping startups, small, medium and online businesses). So I said ‘no’ and recommended someone else. It was a great decision (and incidentally both are now clients for their startup online businesses!).

5. When you don’t know the answer

Repeat after me: “I don’t have to know everything.”

As much as I’d love to know the answer to every question my clients throw at me (and there are some great curly ones!), the idea that anyone knows everything related to their industry is not realistic.

Instead, tell them “I’m not sure about the answer to that one, but I can certainly find out for you.” They will appreciate your honesty. And that honesty is more helpful to them than an answer filled with incorrect information.

So as you can see, you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to every single thing your clients ask of you. Keep focused on your business direction, stay the course and stick to your goals and strategies.

This is of benefit, not just to you, but to your clients too (even though they might not realise it at the time!)

Do you find it hard to say no to clients? Do you have a ‘saying no’ success story?

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.

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