Just Say No

There’s something special about working with a small business. Whether it’s the fact that things might be handled a little more casually, or that you know every employee by name, birthday, and hobbies, it’s a little more comfortable.

Nothing lasts forever, and if you’re dealing with a successful small business, then sooner or later, the company gets larger, and many of the things that made the company special are no longer available. With over 50 employees, you’re lucky if you know the names of the people working on your project. The owner/founder no longer has time to talk to you as often as you would like.

As the owner or founder of a small business, it’s important to recognize this difference, and try to work with it. From what I’ve seen, the biggest change that happens to growing businesses is the ability to say no.

When a business is growing and expanding, there is temptation to accept every job that floats your way. No matter the request, your business can handle it. After all, you’ve gone from 5 employees to 25 employees, and need to make sure that you have enough work for all of them, so the more work the merrier.

Little could be further from the truth. While having idle employees is not a healthy state for a business, having employees do work for which they are unqualified, or over-qualified, to do, is also not a healthy state for your business, as it generates either frustration on the part of the client that the work is sub-par, or on the part of the employees that they are working on boring stuff.

Accepting every bit of business that comes your way does not necessarily improve your business. As a sole proprietor, you may have had that luxury, but once you start building a brand, that freedom is gone. When it was only you and a few employees, again, you may have been able to take all the work that came your way, but when you’re creating a business, that freedom disappeared.

Most small business owners have learned how to say no:

  • No, I won’t take on that project, because it’s too big for what my company can handle;
  • No, I won’t work with this client, because he doesn’t pay when he says he will;
  • No, I won’t work on this contract, because it’s not what my business is trying to do.

However, during periods of growth, saying no to any one of these becomes more difficult – your business needs the work and income to support its new size. However, from the perspective of your clients, it’s necessary to continue to say no when the client or project does not further your business, and when they detract from your company’s ability to satisfy your clients’ needs.

Saying no isn’t bad for your business, it helps define what your business stands for. Your business is defined as much by what you don’t take on as by what you do take on.

So please, when growing, continue to say no to those projects and clients that don’t help your business grow in the direction you envision, it will help improve the image of your business in the eyes of your clients, and at the end of the day, everyone will be happier with the outcome.