It’s okay to say NO

I don’t think there are very many people out there who like hearing the word ‘no’. In small business and sales you never want to say no. You want to sell the dream and then you can figure out how to make it happen later. The reality is for small businesses everywhere sometimes you actually need to and should in fact say NO.

I should say NO to silly hats
I should say NO to silly hats

I know I am the worst for this I will try and do everything in my power and bend over backwards for my clients. I think we have all been in that position when our gut was telling us at the beginning that we shouldn’t agree to take on a specific contract or client. I always think of these as challenges that will make me a better person or have a gained a good learning experience from the process. I am also usually kicking myself while on the job and using very expletive words in my inner monologue.

There are times when it is okay to say no and it is probably in the best interest of you, your business and your clients. Sometimes you will not be able to make a client happy and if you can realize this BEFORE you take the job you should consider walking away. Ultimately when you weigh out the pros and cons you should be happy with the outcome and either come out neutral or ahead in an ideal situation. You don’t want to feel like the life has been sucked out of you. Taking the job for the sake of taking it and doing it poorly will leave a bad taste in your mouth and can reflect really poorly on you.

I should have said No to red icing and letting my dad supervise!
I should have said No to red icing and letting my dad supervise!

I was recently in a situation where I had to say no to a client. I felt terrible doing it but I think in the big scheme of things it was for the best. We had done a quote for the potential client back in the spring, we went back and forth because we didn’t have the exact product she was looking for. I went through the available products from the various manufactures I have access to both in North America and overseas and we couldn’t find quite the right shade to match the Pantone colors she was looking for. Then the summer came and went and I didn’t hear another word. To be honest, I figured they had found someone else. For all the quotes we do we don’t always win every contract. People shop around and may find what they are looking for elsewhere. I usually follow-up once but I don’t like to pressure people or harass them so I leave the final decision in their hands.

Just before Christmas, the client calls me back wanting to go ahead with the order. Now the event is about 6 weeks away. We hadn’t gotten any new samples so I wasn’t confident I could get what the client wanted. After some discussion, I gave her recommendations for other local companies that might help and have what she was looking and even suggested she go out of the city to some of the big companies in Toronto. I felt horrible that I wasn’t able to help her but from the conversation I was really worried we wouldn’t be able to meet her expectations. I was also worried that we wouldn’t have time to get samples made and the actual large order delivered in time especially with the holiday in the middle of all this.

The client was disappointed and told me so and I could completely sympathize with her. It was awful to say no and miss out on the opportunity but it would have sucked a lot more to have committed and then not delivered or have shown up with a product they didn’t like. Those negative comments could be more harmful to the business, not to mention being left with a large quantity of linen in a custom color that I would have to store in the hopes that someone, someday may want to rent them. Negative word of mouth is much more damaging than positive word of mouth and it can take longer to bounce back from that.

Say NO to silly costumes
Say NO to silly costumes

I always feel like with a business you are caught between a rock and a hard place. You want business but at what cost? It can be incredibly difficult but the feeling of relief you get when you have said that hard two-letter word usually means you made the right choice for your sanity and your business.


4 thoughts on “It’s okay to say NO

  1. I agree 100% with you. As a matter of fact this is my New Year Resolution to create some boundaries in my small business and for myself, and follow through. And to learn how to say “No”. Fake it till you Make it, right.
    I have learned that we cannot be everything to everybody.

    1. I think boundaries are really important. Especially with people being able to reach you through various mediums now. It is okay to unplug and not respond immediately. Easier said than done (for me)

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