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Important entrepreneurial skill: Learn to say “No”

It is hard to say no, especially to certain people who are very important for your business, but this is a necessarily skill (yes, skill) which entrepreneurs must master in order to sustain their work balance,  stay in track with their important tasks and keep up with the growth of their company. As for some, receiving no as an answer can be considerate acceptable, others find it pretty offensive and for this second type of people it can even become a business relationship breaker.

So, how can we say no when we believe that we should, and still maintain healthy, respectful relationship with the requestor? This can be tricky question, because every person is different and every request is different, but learning to say the magic word no can save you so much time and trouble.

Saying no is one of the most important things busy entrepreneurs should learn, precisely if they tend to accept offers and project terms which are harming their startup just because they don’t know how to refuse them. Before you instinctively accept every offer, term or extra work, you should remember that you can always say no if you believe that this is the right answer. There are three important steps you can follow in order to become more confident in saying no.

Analyze the request

Entrepreneurs are always ready to help others and to sacrifice some of their time for a good cause, but more importantly they should focus on their schedule before accepting extra tasks and projects or before changing some project terms after the work is half way done. Good prioritizing is essential for the successful entrepreneurs and they should value the importance of their own businesses. Don’t feel obligated to respond positively to someone’s request just because you have been asked to. Take your time to figure out what is the essence of the request, how much time it would take you, is it suitable with your schedule, and will you be able to complete it without compromising with your important daily tasks and startup mission.

Demarcate the person from the task

When you refuse to accept specific task, make sure that the person offering it doesn’t get the thought that you are doing it because they have asked you. Distinguish the person from the task. Make it clear that you don’t say no to the person who is asking you, you are saying no to this specific task. If you do so, you will be able to stay in good terms with the requester and keep your business relationship alive and open for future work together.

Give specific arguments

Be honest when you explain why you are not willing to accept specific offer or task. Back up your decision with solid arguments and make sure that the person in front of you understands your motives and still appreciates the time you’ve spent talking to them. The reasons to say no can be many – you don’t have the time, you don’t have the passion to do this specific request, or it is beyond your expertise and agenda. Just explain well your position and expect understanding.

─ January 20, 2015