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Is saying no a bad thing?!

I wanted to give a personal story, show some honesty and openness about when we first started our agency. Hopefully this is of interest?!

“Focusing is about saying no.”

Steve Jobs

Startup life, it's tough, gruelling, exciting, enthralling...it's a journey! The business world is the battlefield, you're making your first moves to climb the ladder and you want to get noticed by everyone. Saying no, it's difficult...it's the word that's suddenly escaped your vocabulary and you're scared of using it in fear of losing out, disappointing clients or the retribution! 

Let's give this some context.

Looking back to when we first started our agency, we said yes. We said yes to everything. We wanted to impress, we wanted to deliver and we wanted to win business. It's human nature, we are hungry to prove ourselves with any opportunity that presents itself...especially if it seems daunting. You fear losing and you fear disappointment. You want to prove to clients that you're the agency that can do anything! We feared if we said no, future opportunities from that client won't come our way and we've disappointed them. So, we avoided saying no.

Through our own fault (or you could say eagerness to impress), a few months in and our team was exhausted. Having too much work to do can be seen as a positive thing, but here it was hurting us.  Mentally and physically, we were drained, the atmosphere was low and we felt beaten up. We had been saying yes to everything, even when it didn't feel right to say yes...we did! We were delivering the world at the drop of a hat. We were flourishing, but at what long term cost?

It was time for change.

For any start up, the biggest killer is the time and resources each project requires. You need to pick and choose wisely. When you're a small team you can't do everything, no matter how young and hungry you are, or no matter how many hours you work! We sat down, we assessed the work we'd done and we discussed how we could improve our situation. The common theme within the team was the following. We needed to be smarter, we needed to focus and we needed to bring the word "no" back into our vocabulary. 

Why? Either because the project wasn't right, the project was unrealistic and we wanted to lay expectations or simply to improve the situation and give concrete expert advice on why something wasn't right. At first, when you say no - it feels awkward, it doesn't feel right and you feel like you're genuinely hurting someone's feelings. It doesn't have to be that way. 

“Tone is the hardest part of saying no.”

Jonathan Price

When saying no, we weren't there to hurt someone's feelings or for people to feel like we were better than them. It wasn't like that at all. We were saying no to deliver and to better the situation for clients and us. The conversations were positive, if we thought something wouldn't work - we would go back with a solution, we wouldn't just flat out say no and not back up what we said. We'd advise, we care and after all we want to forge long lasting relationships.

If one of your friends personal situation could be improved, you'd tell them right? To show clients you really care - saying no and advising a solution, can only be a good thing. Our goal is to deliver work we are proud of, remember and work people talk about, share and to build long lasting relationships with our clients! Through saying no in certain situations, we had more time to do what we did best.

Saying no, can be a good thing.