4 Reasons to Say “No” in Business

Contrary to popular belief, saying “yes” to every client doesn’t always help your business. 

At Smack Happy Design, we know that we love to work with businesses that impact the world. So that’s who we choose to work with – clients that excite us, value our culture and core values, and that bring something different to the table that positively contributes to our mission. We don’t believe in taking on projects for the sake of it. We aren’t afraid to turn away work and say “no” to clients who we realize may not be a great fit at the end of the day.

Adopting this mentality as a business owner will only help your business in the long-term.

1. You Will Avoid Burnout 

Did you know that approximately 75% of small businesses are going it alone

When you’re in the habit of saying “yes” more often than saying “no,” you end up taking on more work and projects than you might be able to handle. Depending upon your team size, you may find it difficult to delegate tasks and complete projects on time. You may find yourself working day and night to get work done because you want to keep your clients happy. We know we do.

Tell-tale signs you’re burnt out…

  • You feel like your day-to-day is out of control.
  • You feel like you need to hire someone to project manage your life.
  • You forget top project priorities and when they need to be done.
  • You sorely lack a personal life. Downtime? What’s that?
  • You tend to put off work because you’d rather be doing ANYTHING else.
  • You can’t remember the last time you asked someone for help.
  • You don’t set strict work hours. You find yourself working 24-7.
  • You lack boundaries. If a client wants to meet on a Sunday, you say, “sure.”

And that’s how you ultimately burnout. You don’t need to be skipping meals to get work done.

Quantity doesn’t beat quality. The more clients you have, the more work you have. And over time, the quality of your work may slip. So it’s important to make sure that you’re taking on a reasonable amount of projects and saying “no” to clients when you feel like you’ve reached your capacity. Your business will thank you for it.

Remember: being “busy” doesn’t mean you’re actually productive. 

2. You’ll Do Your Best Work 

Taking on more projects than you can handle can lead to less than star-quality work. If you want to be doing the best work possible for your clients, “no” should be in your vocabulary. 

Saying “no” enables you to provide your best services. Your business may even thrive because of it. 

How to say “no” without losing business… 

  • Practice gratitude. Before turning down a project or saying “no,” let this person know how grateful you are for the connection. Let’s say someone reached out to work with you, but you were booked out, or it wasn’t the right fit. Take a minute to let them know that you appreciate them reaching out to you for business in an email or over the phone.
  • Be transparent. When you do say “no,” be as clear and straightforward as possible. Everyone appreciates honesty and accountability, especially when it comes to business. Even if what you’re telling them isn’t what they want to hear, they’ll respect you for being upfront about it, rather than holding back. You could even get a referral from them.
  • Always offer an alternative. At Smack Happy, If we know that we really cannot take on more projects at a given time – we will recommend one or two trusted resources who can get the job done for them. No one wants to be left hanging, so it’s important to have referrals and recommendations on hand, in the case that you can’t work with someone.

Saying “no” doesn’t just mean turning away new work or projects that you don’t have the time to take on. 

Saying “no” is also about setting boundaries for yourself and turning down additional client requests that you cannot accommodate. 

For example, if a client is asking for something outside of the set project scope or something that you know will not help them in the long-term, tell them that. Your job is to provide them with the best services possible, so be confident in recommending what you think will and won’t work when it comes to their business.

Remember: Don’t be afraid to tell the truth. After all, it’s your business.

3. You’ll Earn Your Client’s Respect

As a business owner, you want to stand firm in what you believe, and the clients who are meant to work with you will appreciate you for doing so. As a team, we value commitment, ownership, and integrity in our client relationships.

It’s crucial that you know what you value and that you express that with potential clients. 

If someone is looking to work with you but does not embody the values you hold dear, you have permission to say “no” to that relationship. And that person will respect you for your decision. 

However, if you were to say “yes,” you could find yourself in a situation where you end up resenting the work and not giving it your all. And that could potentially end in both you and the client being dissatisfied. Why not avoid all of that by saying “no” in the first place?

Remember: Saying “yes” can hurt a client more than saying “no.”

4. Saying “No” Helps Create Long-Lasting Relationships

You want to work with clients that make you happy. At least that’s our motto. 

And you can work with people who make you happy – when you are clear on who you want to work with and who you don’t want to work with. This goes for client AND team relationships. 

You want to make sure to stick to your values and say “no” when there is not a client fit or a culture add. You are allowed to go with your gut, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. 

As a business owner, you should be setting criteria on the qualities you would like to see in both your clients and your team members. For our team at Smack Happy, we want to be cultivating client and team relationships that are long-lasting. To achieve that, we make sure that we’re super specific about what we’re looking for. 

And sometimes, this means saying “no” to someone who may not positively contribute to your company.

Remember: Know when to say “no.” 

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