Getting to “No”

getting-to-no.gifThe title of this post pays homage to the popular book “Getting  to Yes,” by Roger Fisher and William Ury about win-win negotiations. We as small business owners are typically very eager to close that next deal. We read dozens of books, articles, blog posts, and take workshops that we hope will help us in marketing ourselves and getting that elusive client to say “yes.” But, there are those times when we actually should be saying “no!” When, the stars don’t align, or the vibe is not right, or the client is just all wrong. The issue is though. For many of us, it’s hard to say “No.”

I’ve been thinking about this particular topic a lot lately. We have reached one of our busiest times in our six year history. We’ve been so busy that I’ve not been able to spend the kind of time with my family, or just for myself, that I’d ideally like to have. We’re at the stage where we’re bigger than a “mom and pop,” but we’re still a long way off from being what Robert Kiyosaki refers to as a “Quadrant B” company. A fully streamlined business able to run itself on autopilot, whether or not Ron Dawson picks up a camera or sits down at his Mac to edit. And I know that a lot of my fellow service providers out there are dealing with the same issues (particularly my videographer brothers and sisters). So, for all of us, the idea of “no” is one we need to consider for many reasons. Here are just a few times when it may be best to decline a job.

  1. Pay not worth the work involved: this is a no-brainer. I’m a huge proponent of small businesses getting paid what they’re worth for their services. Aside from the times you may take a lower paying (or even free) gig for strategic reasons, don’t take a job that pays you less than you’re worth just to get it. I understand that when you’re just starting out, you may need to establish yourself first. But, once your quality is up to snuff, don’t be afraid to charge a fair rate for it.
  2. Pay doesn’t reach a qualified level: there may be jobs whose pay is commiserate with the work that would be involved, but that pay level may not in and of itself be worth it to your company. Let’s say you’re a boutique photographer charging $10,000 for a full day’s work. Someone may ask you to do a job for $500, and it may be a fair rate for the requested work involved. But, if you get enough work as it is at your higher level, the incremental stress with managing yet another project may not be worth it. Also, if you take any job, no matter how low, you may need to consider a volume business model. If you’re a service provider, it’s much more difficult to build and successfully run a high volume business.
  3. Job conflicts with your personal convictions: for those of you out there who make a living from your art (e.g. photography or video production), there may be jobs you don’t take because they conflict with your personal convictions. Early in my video career, I was contacted by a rap artist to shoot his video. The amount of profanity and the subject matter of the video was such that I declined. Don’t be afraid to stand firm to your personal beliefs or convictions.
  4. Client may be “challenging”: we’ve all come across that client where you can tell from day one that they will be too challenging to work with. You know what I mean. There are certain names for such clients that I won’t bother to mention here. Let’s just say that your peace of mind and sanity aren’t worth selling out.
  5. Quality of your service or product will suffer: a potential gig may meet all the qualifications to make it a worthwhile job, but the timing may just be wrong. If your workload is such that you cannot deliver a quality product or service commiserate with your established brand, you may have to say no. These are by far the hardest jobs to turn down. But, you could end up hurting yourself in the long run. We once took a gig from a high profile client because we really, really wanted to work with them. In any normal situation, I would have assigned myself personally. But we were already swamped and I was personally booked, so I assigned the gig to a junior member of my team. Given the nature of this client, it would have been better for me to pass over the job and hope to work with them at a future time when I knew I could offer our top talent. Unfortunately situations occurred that wouldn’t have otherwise happened if a more senior team member had been assigned. We live and learn. We may have hurt our chances or every working for that client again (or at least that division of that client. It’s a pretty big company).

Saying “No” ain’t easy

I completely understand  how hard it is to say “no” to someone willing to pay you for your services. I myself am guilty of all the above rules at one point or another (except for the convictions one). And I do understand that sometimes, by sheer nature of the fact your business may be your only form of income, saying “no” may not be an option. But, as your business grows, and your responsibilities grow, you’ll find that “no” may become the best way to establish proper boundaries between work and life.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some strategies you can use to help “get you to NO,” safe and in tact.

3 thoughts on “Getting to “No”

  1. Hey Ron,

    That is one awesome post; such a very very important thing to remember!!! I think this one that should be printed out and kept in a place where it is always visible and in the forefront of our minds. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I am in just the beginning steps of my own business. This is great info for me as look to the future. I look forward to reading more on your blog.

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