Saying “No” as a Small Business Owner


Photo (CC), on Flickr

Over the holiday break, I enjoyed spending time with my 18-month old grandson. He is at that stage where the word “no” is a significant part of his vocabulary. He says it often and sometimes loudly.

As we grow older we tend to say “no” less often. I don’t know if it is because of our upbringing or if we are just trying to keep everyone pleased, but saying no feels like something we just shouldn’t do. It seems to be a word to be saved for only the most dire emergencies.

As a business owner, you need to break that mold. Saying no should be one of the management tools you carry and use on a regular basis. This was recently pointed out in an article shared by Becky McCray on her blog, Small Biz Survival. This blog post was building on an earlier work by Stephanie Ward of Firefly Coaching.

Stephanie several reasons why we just can’t say no: we want to be liked; we feel guilty; or we don’t know how to say it in a way that makes it an acceptable response. So instead we say yes and quickly become angry or feel overwhelmed.

There are other times we need to say no as a business owner. One such time may be when you are being asked over and over for donations. Suzette Barta of Oklahoma has put together an excellent piece on “How to Survive When You’re Being Hundred-Dollared to Death” (look for CR-961).

Here are more helpful articles:

No – It is one of the shortest words we have. Yet it carries so much weight. We fear that using it will shut doors forever.

The reality is it can be used effectively and without any harm to your business. As we move into a new year, make it part of your business management strategy.

The Power of Great Decision-making

ImageHow do you make decisions?

Are you a muller—someone who does careful research, considers all the consequences of every decision, weighs the options and then decides?

Or are you more impulsive—someone who makes decisions quickly, based on intuition and without a lot of data?

Most of us make hundreds of decisions every day. We make small choices—What will I have for breakfast? Will I need an umbrella today? Should the new bath towels be blue or green?

We also make bigger decisions on a daily basis—Is my child too sick to go to school? When can I get my car into the garage for service? Should we buy season tickets to the museum? Many of these types of decisions can be made without a lot of research. You have the information you need readily at hand. Generally the consequences, while important, are not critical. A bad choice may result in some regret but is not likely to affect the path of your life.

Life-Changing Decisions

Then there are the big decisions. Should I buy a house or continue renting? Is now the right time to start a family? Should I turn my hobby into a business? Can I afford to retire this year? Can I make a living from self-employment? These types of decisions are much more complex. Decisions which have a major effect on your life are referred to as life changes. Life changes generally result in: a long-term impact; a significant level of risk; an increased level of stress; and the need for some careful research. Life changes are often a comparison of at least two alternative actions and frequently involve more than just one individual. For that reason, life changing decisions often lead us into conflict with the very same people whose support we need most.

The decision to start a business is definitely one of these life changes. Deciding to start a business is not a “right” or “wrong” type of decision. For some individuals it is the very best decision, for others it is the worst possible decision. The result depends on individual circumstances and how carefully the decision was made. Too often, people make a choice based on a whim or in reaction to a current situation. For example, a bad situation at work can result in someone thinking that all their problems would be solved if they just worked for themselves. Or a really great vacation in the country can start someone thinking about how much fun it would be to own a bed and breakfast.

How individuals make decisions varies with different personality types. Some people are naturally conservative and really agonize over making the right choice. Some individuals are, by nature, more impulsive, making choices quickly and without fully thinking through the consequences. Because our personalities are, in part, determined by our core values, it is important to consider values in our decision making. If you regularly make a habit of reviewing your values and goals before you make big decisions you will, over time, begin to make better choices because you will be using a concrete reference point as your guide.

The Critical Questions

There are six critical questions that can help you through the decision making process. Each of these questions will require you to think about the issue from a slightly different perspective.

  1. Will taking this action move me toward my goal?
  2. If I choose this action will I be creating a new problem?
  3. Does this action address a root problem or a symptom?
  4. Have I considered at least two alternative actions?
  5. Am I comfortable with this action?
  6. What are the best and worst outcomes that could result from this action? Can I live with either outcome?

Once you have wrestled with these questions you will be in a much stronger position to make great decisions in your business and your life.