It’s Okay to Say ‘No’

It’s Okay to Say ‘No’

Entrepreneurship | Judette Coward-Puglisi

May 7, 2014

When you’re the owner of a small business and big global comes knocking at your door, there are two emotions you experience:

First there’s the happiness, the thrill of knowing that the idea that you started in your bedroom is finally perceived to have the right mix of know-how and talent to attract a multinational.

Second, you panic because when big global comes knocking you have to wonder about how you’ll handle the growth. How much resources you’ll need to invest?  The talent, the equipment, the location, the money, everything has to be considered.

But what an entrepreneur never thinks about is saying no.  Of course there could be a million reasons to do so, and fewer reasons to stand up and say yes.

Big global could be in an industry that turns your stomach.

Big global could have a culture of command and control that alienates your team and increases their exit rate.

Big global could have such little cash and so many huge demands your small enterprise could eventually end up giving away much of its work for free.

All three instances have happened to me, the latter quite recently.

My advice to you before opening your door wide is to make sure you ask the right questions, the ones not only include the numbers that’ll be in the contract but also the one related to culture, ethics, industry and expectations.

It’s easy to ignore them all. Entrepreneurs inhabit a world of yes where optimism and possibility often triumph reality and practicality. And while the former are an entrepreneur’s bloodlines, sometimes saying no will give you the resources to say yes to other more meaningful opportunities.

For instance, the day I said no more to big global, who demanded 4 times the work they wanted to pay for, was also the day I signed a contract with another (after asking the right questions) where there was a fair exchange of work for creativity and talent.

Of course you’ve got to learn to say no with respect and conviction.

When saying no, don’t hesitate to lead big global to another firm who might say yes. Saying no invariably does not always happen at the beginning make sure when reviewing your contract the exit clauses represent a win for you, it can allow you exit gracefully and avoid the animosity that comes with divorce.

It can be a painful lesson when what looks like an opportunity kicks you from behind. Saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no sometimes never makes sense.