Sunday, 17 February 2013

It Costs Big if you can't say 'No'

I read a good article recently on Psychology Today by Peter Bregman about how to say 'No'.
This is a very under-rated skill to have. Saying 'No' is vital to keeping work and customer expectations at manageable levels. I have been guilty in the past, of failing to say ‘No’ when I knew immediately it was the right answer in the long term. What ensues is usually a lengthy and awkward process of realigning customer expectations and eventually telling them ‘No’. In the meantime, you probably have damaged customer relationships and wasted time figuring out how to get the message across.
This happens quite a bit in software start-ups that code their own product. Release versions and source code control run a little loose and it’s easy to say ‘Yes’ to an important client when they inevitably ask for a function or change request. At start-up phase pretty much any client is an important client.
However, you will find yourself making promises you can’t keep, burning the candle at both ends (working late / weekends) to come good on commitments when you should have said ‘No’. That leads to endless firefighting where you neglect the basics of making sure your strategic business systems are running properly (sales pipeline, support documentation, credit control, cost benefit analysis of activity).
Key staff will get frustrated at constantly working under pressure or jumping from one ‘priority’ to another and probably leave. You will more than likely rehire in a hurry because you need someone straight away. Because you have taken your eye off the ball on the fundamentals of the business you may neglect your sales process, prospect call backs etc, so the clients that made the initial request now become even more important (as other sales haven't grown as planned ). It then gets even harder to say 'No' to their next change request. On and on it goes.
If you are a start-up company in firefighting mode or constantly find yourself avoiding calls from clients, end up working weekends, late at night, ask yourself how often you have said ‘No’ to a request in the last week. Chances are it’s not very often. There is nothing wrong with being busy and firefighting, just so long as it’s for a strategic or commercially sound reason. If it’s purely because you could not say ‘No’, then it’s a problem

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