Honing Your Craft by Saying ‘No’: Turning Down the Wrong Products, Projects, and Clients Can Help You Focus on Better Opportunities
I am an inherent fixer, creative problem-solver, and endlessly curious like a four-year-old child. When confronted with a problem that I know I can solve or positively influence, I’ll become impassioned quickly, want to fix the world, and, before I know it, I can overcommit myself, my resources, and my time. Age and experience have shown me, however, the value of recognizing this passionate pitfall and making decisions that require the word “no,” even when I want to scream “yes!”
One such defining moment, for me, was for a project that started out looking great on paper. It was budgeted for six-figures (a good get for the Midwest), with a client who “knew people” and had a long list of potential referrals lined up waiting for us. Yet, in the sales process he identified how he really didn’t care about quality – price mattered, and that was all.
After our client asked me to take a “haircut” on the project, I let him know that I like my hair long and that we should not do business together; it didn’t seem to be a good match. Walking away from this project took guts, and I needed the support of my team as I turned down such a big opportunity (it was 2010, and the market wasn’t great). Yet, saying “no” to this client meant that we could say “yes” to the next few opportunities that came our way– ones that were perfect (and profitable) for us. I kept my hair long and we had better clients as a result. When I heard that our competitors were still working in the house of the client we had turned away, nearly two years later, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that saying “no” had saved our soul.
Despite many audio/visual integrators working both sides of the commercial and residential spectrum, we have opted to focus solely on residential business since January of this year. We are saying “no” to commercial audio/visual work, so our design and technical teams can focus on the residential work at hand. A skilled workforce is developing in our industry, but it is not easy to find great people, and I want the people we have on board to succeed more than I want to sell a big commercial project.
Our product lines and training program are now more focused, as is our sales and design process. This official move hasn’t been easy because I know we could do the work that comes our way. But, it’s better for our business to connect these leads with those that do commercial work all of the time, so we can focus on honing our residential skillset to be the best in our area.
Being in technology provides opportunities to fall in love with, buy, and implement new products and solutions all of the time. Yet, we have realized the importance of saying “no” (or at least “not yet”) to brand-new technologies as a go-to solution, until they have been properly vetted. The market, manufacturers, and reps consistently encourage the sale of a new shiny penny, stating it’s the next best thing. But is it?
Our clients hire us for reliably built electronic environments that simplify their lives. If the new shiny penny does not provide this experience consistently, then our reputation and relationships with our clients suffer. Our clients want leading edge, not bleeding edge. We alpha test at home, beta test in our office, and then implement in clients’ homes if the product passes the test.
Even though we still want to say “yes,” saying “no” has helped our business, by focusing our attention on the right opportunities–not all opportunities. We are building a better business because of it. Can you look at your business with a fresh set of eyes and see where you should be saying “no”?