The Art Of ‘No’

Published: November 28, 2019

It’s No-vember.  I know that the title of this blog might come across as a little ‘Bah Humbug!’, but that is not my intention.  Ultimately, as a business owner who is familiar with the peaks and troughs of self employment, I am all too aware how easy it can be to want to say ‘yes’ to everyone, whether that’s a favour, a quick ‘last minute’ job (you know the ones – they are never, ever quick!) or to client work that you have a bad gut feeling about but feel compelled to accept because you know that cash-flow isn’t always guaranteed in business!

We all start with the best intentions – we want to be a valuable resource, a trusted business associate, a useful friend, but there comes a time when these ‘favours’ inevitably have an impact on our life and work; you may find yourself working at 2AM for free or your normal rate to help someone out, or find that your energy and enthusiasm have been sucked dry as you scramble to complete one of the last-minute jobs, at the detriment to your other customers.

I’m not saying that you have to say no to everything, but there comes a moment when we need to ensure that our own wellbeing (and sanity) and our existing customers are prioritised.  If you want to help but can’t do it ‘urgently’, suggest a more appropriate timescale – if it doesn’t work for them, that is their issue. You are not solely responsible for the success/failure of anyone’s business except your own, and as long as the work you have agreed to deliver (and do deliver) is of the high standard you expect of yourself and delivered in a timely manner in accordance with your existing contract, you are doing all you can (and all you are able to do) for your customers.

So this NO-vember, take a moment after every customer enquiry, every little request for a favour, every call for urgent assistance to pause, breathe and quietly consider if, and when, it is appropriate for you to help.  If it isn’t, be honest with yourself and your colleague/customer/friend – tell them that you haven’t got availability at the moment but could help in the future or can recommend someone else who could help. And then let it go! You’re doing all you can to maintain your own business and support your customers with a high quality service, and that is already an achievement worth celebrating.