When Saying “No” Improves Profits

go-ahead-say-noIn business, much of the advice leaders get is all about embracing possibilities. We’re constantly encouraged to “Go for it!” “and to “Seize the Day.” Nike has profited greatly by admonishing people to “Just Do It.”

When there’s incredible pressure to focus on powering ahead, choosing to say “no” can be an unpopular position.

It’s a given that forward motion is essential to success, and a lot of my work with entrepreneurs is all about creating and sustaining momentum for growth. So why would I advocate putting on the brakes?

What you don’t do is even more vital to success and profit than saying “yes.”

It’s all about refinement, focus and clarity of purpose. Diligently declining things that don’t fit your business model and your priorities keeps you on course (assuming you’ve set a strategic path to begin with).

The Easy Way

Usually, an affirmative decision is the path of least resistance. You’re not disappointing people when you accept their suggestions for new product ideas, feature enhancements or partnerships.

Many people say “yes” to avoid conflict or difficult conversations. Agreeing, at least initially, is easier. Unfortunately, the easy “yes” eventually erodes profits and undermines motivation.

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Accepting too much adds new distractions. It consumes critical resources and takes you and your team off task. Trying to do everything creates the classic challenge of being spread to thin, which is never good for business.

Process Helps

There’s a fine line between exploring and innovating and simply being lost in a morass of misguided ideas.

Without a solid process in place to evaluate options and make strategic choices, decisions become personal and emotional. The resulting discord distracts employees and alienates customers.

Tools like a stage-gate model for products or an agile development model make incremental choices easier. They give you a way to quickly opt-out or modify your course of action without creating emotional baggage.

Even with these tools, there are many more decisions leaders like you make every day that need to be weighed carefully, and not accepted lightly.

Cultivate the Negative

Saying no is a leadership skill to cultivate. “No” is not an answer to be employed capriciously. It’s not a power move that reinforces authority to show who’s boss.

“No” is a strategic tool.

The beauty of “no” is its power to keep you on point, creating elegant solutions instead of overwhelming ones. Consider all the things Apple could have included in its product design, but didn’t. Think about the simplicity of calling an Uber.

“No” is about removing distractions, eliminating waste and refusing to be pulled in too many directions.

“No” is the answer that…

  • Keeps you from hiring the wrong person, the one with the magnetic personality who looks great on paper but doesn’t quite fit (saving you lots of pain later).
  • Prevents you from chasing an avenue that several customers suggest, which ultimately turns out to be less profitable than your core business.
  • Let’s you decline a 4:30 meeting and leave the office in time to catch your kid’s soccer game, keeping balance in your life.

While it isn’t always the right answer, you might need to say “no” more often than you think. If your business feels like a game of pinball, bouncing from one thing to another, give “no” a try.

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed? Is it a challenge to identify your ideal customers, your core value proposition, or the driving force of your strategy? If so, “no” is probably underutilized in your organization.

Next time “Yes” seems like the easy answer, stop and think: should I really say “No” instead?

Share your thoughts in the Comments below, and let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: Johnny Magnusson on FreeImages.com

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