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To create a winning business strategy, first define what you won’t do

Posted by Neha De

August 4, 2021    |     2-minute read (519 words)

Ask any successful business owner about strategy and they will tell you that it is not just about saying “Yes” — it is also about knowing when to say “No.” It is about saying “No” to choices that diverge from the most desirable direction for a business, whether it’s to certain clients or customers, to a certain (even profitable) deal, to certain investors, to certain markets or to hiring a certain individual. 

Take the example of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who believed even great ideas can kill productivity. “Focusing is about saying ‘No,’” the late co-founder famously said at Apple’s 1997 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). And when Mark Parker was named CEO of Nike in 2006, Jobs reiterated, “Focus means saying ‘No’ to the hundred other good ideas.” 

The late Apple CEO added: “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘No’ to 1,000 things. You have to pick carefully.” 

Sharing Jobs’ mindset is billionaire Warren Buffett, who believes time is the greatest commodity of all. He once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.” 

How to say “No”

It is crucial for business owners to be able to “No” effectively so they are able to execute their business’ strategy and meet their long-term goals and objectives to the best of their abilities. Let’s take a look at two top tips that can help entrepreneurs develop the skill of saying “No.”

  1. Don’t immediately say “Yes,” ever: Most entrepreneurs believe in saying “Yes” to every contract, every customer thinking it will buy them goodwill in the long run. However, they must understand that before they say “Yes” to someone’s request or offer, they must assess the situation and figure out feasibility at their end. Learning how to say “No” also stops people from asking for things without any consideration.

  2. Use logic instead of emotion: Business owners should not use emotions or excuses to get out of a request, as it creates more emotions and makes things awkward. Instead, they should use logic when turning someone down. They could say something like, “We are already working at full capacity and quality will suffer if we take on more work.” 
According to author David Maister’s professor Wickham Skinner, “No operation can be good at everything simultaneously.” Maister writes in his article “Strategy Means Saying “No,’” An operation designed to provide the highest quality is unlikely to be the one that achieves the lowest cost, and one that can respond to a wide variety of customized requests will be unlikely to provide fast response and turnaround. Any business that tried to deliver all four virtues of quality, cost, variety and speed would be doomed to failure.”  

The bottom line is, saying “No” can be tough, but that’s what successful people do, especially when they know something is not going to work, they don’t have the capabilities or they just don’t have the time to do a quality job. 

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