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  • Written by Phoebe Netto

For many business owners, ‘no’ is one of the most challenging words in their vocabulary. To some, saying no means turning down opportunities, work, and ultimately, revenue. To me and my business, however, saying no is actually the first step towards bigger success.

By saying yes to every little task and project that comes along, we’re not filtering out the added stress that has no place in our lives. We think we’re saying yes to more clients and more revenue, but what we’re actually saying yes to is working more hours than planned, working seven days per week, and burning ourselves out.

You can’t put a price on your headspace, nor the headspace of your team. Over time, the inability to say no becomes a fast track to burnout, overwork, and exhaustion. No monetary amount is ever going to be worth that wasted stress.

The truth is, saying no gives leaders and their teams more bandwidth to do their very best work. By saying no to the work we’re indifferent about, we make room for the work we love. We can continue to focus on the work that we’re known for and are confident in, instead of wasting time and energy on work that we’re merely good at. By saying no, we can focus on being great.

Saying no nicely

So how do you say no without ruining relationships with existing clients or partners, who may have come to rely on you saying ‘yes’ to every task you throw at them? Thankfully, there are a few strategies that can make the process easier for everyone.

Practice explaining why you’re saying no in a positive way. You can turn a no into a positive by sharing what you are brilliant at. Explain why what they’re asking doesn’t fit into your core strengths, rather than focusing the conversation on all the things you don’t do.

Another great option is to have a list of trusted businesses that you can refer customers or clients to. For example, I recently had a potential customer enquire about a piece of work that was close to what my agency offers, but it wasn’t our bread and butter. Sure, I could have accepted the work and we would have done a good job, but I knew another agency that would do even better. I decided to refer it to them.

In one fell swoop, I had proven that I was a trustworthy operator who honestly wanted the best outcome for them, continued to build goodwill with the other agency, and paved the way for future opportunities.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

For business leaders, sometimes saying no is simply about delegation. If someone can do a task as well or better than you, consider if you can give it to another member of your team or even outsource it to an external operator. Often, you’ll find that you make more money than you save by trying to take it on yourself.

The key is to diversify the strengths and passion across your team. I love that my team members are better than me at some tasks. By delegating and learning to say no, the bulk of my time is spent on what I am best at, and the same goes for my team.

All too often, business owners get stuck doing everything under the sun. By saying no, they’ll be freeing up more time for those tasks that truly matter, and will set them up for future success.

About the author:

Phoebe Netto is the founder of Pure Public Relations, a PR firm for SMEs and not-for-profits, that focuses on outcomes, not output – it’s pure and simple. Pure Public Relations offers media relations, issues management and communication services, and has a reputation for securing excellent coverage for topics that are not obviously newsworthy and an impressive track record for issues management.

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