Saying ‘no’ can help your business thrive


Saying ‘no’ doesn’t come naturally to many, particularly when you have your own business. It’s often tempting to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes your way, in an attempt to drive growth.

But knowing when and what to say ‘no’ to, and how to be tactful about it, can actually make you a better entrepreneur and help your business thrive. Here’s five good reasons saying ‘no’ can actually be a positive:

1. Regaining focus

Apple CEO Tim Cook once said: “We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.” Saying no can help you prioritise and maintain focus on your primary goal – creating the best business you can.

2. Working proactively

Saying ‘no’ can also help you work proactively instead of reactively, something which can happen when you say yes to every opportunity and end up taking on too much work. Being reactive can keep you chasing your tail when it comes to the demands of your employees, clients or partners. A proactive working style can give you more control.

3. Selecting the right clients

The old cliché of quality is better than quantity certainly rings true when it comes to clients. Everyone’s had that difficult client who drains your energy and resources. It’s far better to ask yourself if a client is the right fit for your business, or has the potential to become long term, before accepting more work. Sometimes your gut is the best barometer of predicting personality conflicts or if a project may blow out beyond the initial request – good reason to politely decline.

4. Becoming a better entrepreneur

It takes guts to say ‘no’ to opportunities, particularly in the beginning when there’s concerns about cash flow but there’s nothing worse than spreading yourself too thin. Knowing your capacity to take on more work and doing an amazing job with the clients you already have is critical.

5. Say yes to your business and self

Recognising when to say ‘no’ to things that won’t grow your business in the future, also means you’re actually saying yes to yourself. You’re staying true to your direction and that of your business.

But saying ‘no’ takes some practice, so if you’re not ready in your professional life, you can always try it first in your personal life – there’s an art to it but it’s a powerful tool.


About the author

Lauren Fried is the Founder/Managing Director of Pulse Collective, an award-winning Australian advertising agency. She is also a regular panellist on ABC’s Gruen TV show
 and was recently named as one of Australia’s 50 influential women entrepreneurs.