If You Want to be a Success in Business- Just Say No!
By Dr Paul E Adams | December 31, 2000
It is difficult. It can make us feel uncomfortable and, squeamish. Yet, the ability to say no is a skill that we need to be successful. As new entrepreneurs, we do not think much about it. We are so busy trying to stay positive and believe we can achieve our goals that saying no is a negative topic we do not want to clutter our heads with. It is a subject rarely discussed in business seminars or courses.
Why are we afraid to say no? Perhaps we dislike the possibility of anger, argument, or some other distasteful result. We are never sure of the response we may get; it may range from a pleasant understanding to outright hostility. We may be fearful of saying no as our employees may become bitter and quit, our customers may stop buying, and our suppliers may neglect us. Nevertheless, we know that we need to say no. If we have children, we say no and we say it out of love and necessity. We must do the same with our business.
If you have employees, in time they will make demands on you. In the beginning, your employees may understand your need to watch every dollar. But if they think you are making money- expect to hear requests for raises and benefits. How much of your cash you wish to give up to your employees is your decision, but it is impossible to grant every employee wish, from a pay increase to time off, and stay in business.
As much as you may try, there are few secrets in a small business. If you are generous to a particular worker, others will expect similar treatment. Saying no to a valuable worker is difficult, but there are times you must, even when the person threatens to quit. You must never allow yourself to be hostage to threats of quitting. If you establish a pattern of acquiescence, it is going to be difficult to reverse it. Practicing honesty and fairness with your employees will make saying no less painful to all. Inevitably, certain customers will ask for lower prices or other concessions. Your customers do not want to squeeze you out of business, but they want your lowest possible price. And they will be quick to tell you if your competitor offers a better deal. As much as you may wish to, meeting every competitive price challenge can lead to bankruptcy.
Saying no to an unprofitable sale is good business. Price cutting to make a deal or hold a customer, may be necessary on occasion, but as a routine it will lead to losses. Once you give in to unreasonable price demands, you may find it difficult to stop. In addition, there are customers who do not stop at demanding price concessions; they want all types of special treatment. They want: free sample merchandise, free installation, free delivery, free replacements, free credit, etc. There is no end to the number and type of requests they can think of to ask. Say no. Maybe they will go away and drive your rivals crazy.
I saw a business fold because the owner didn't say no in time. In Chicago, a small wire rack manufacturing company was asked by a major retail chain to make kitchen and closet racks to sell in their stores. The owner was excited over the prospects of doing business with a major chain store as most of his customers were slow paying small stores.
His business boomed. As his new customer quickly absorbed most of his capacity, he enthusiastically stopped selling to his regular clients. Which later turned out to be a serious blunder.
As he entered his second year manufacturing for the major retailer, he found them harder to deal with as they began to insist on price concessions. He had no choice but to meet their demands, as he knew that without their business, he would have to close. A year later, the customer told him that his prices were still too high- demanding cuts or they would look for another vendor. This time he said no, but it was too late- he lost the customer and his business.
Some suppliers may ask too much of you. And when it happens, don't hesitate to say no. Your future success may mean holding onto your cash, buying only what you need, in spite of being pressured otherwise. Ironically, the no will be respected when you promptly pay your bill. It makes no sense for any reputable supplier to push you out of business by forcing too much inventory on you.
Certainly, you know it is not easy to be stingy with your cash and please your employees, customers, and other business associates. Seasoned business leaders have learned to say no with as little inner fear or emotion as saying excuse me. They have developed a "firewall" to demands that may jeopardize their business. Although you may prefer not to say no, let me say this to you: "Saying no is a basic of good management. Just do it! It gets easier with practice - and you will worry less."