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To develop a successful business plan, start by determining what you won’t do

Posted by Shivali Anand

September 10, 2021    |     3-minute read (451 words)

When it comes to strategy, any successful company owner will tell you that it's not just about saying "yes," but also understanding when to say "no." It's about saying no to decisions that aren't in the best interests of the company, whether it's to say no to particular clients or consumers, a possible transaction, certain investors, specific markets or hiring a particular person.

Consider Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who felt that even brilliant ideas might stifle productivity. At Apple's 1997 Worldwide Developers Conference, Jobs famously remarked: "Focusing is about saying ‘No.’”

"I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying 'No' to 1,000 things. You have to pick carefully," the late Apple CEO added. 

 Billionaire Warren Buffett shares Jobs' philosophy, believing that time is the most valuable commodity of all. "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say 'No' to almost everything," he once stated.

  What is the safest way to say no?

 Business leaders must be able to say no successfully so they can properly execute their company's plan and accomplish their long-term goals and objectives. Let's look at two top recommendations for helping businesses master the art of saying no.

  1.  Never say yes right away: Most businesspeople assume that saying yes to every contract and every customer will earn them goodwill in the long run. However, they must realize that before agreeing to someone's request or offer, they must analyze the circumstances and determine whether they are feasible. Learning how to say no also prevents individuals from asking for stuff they don't need.
  1. Use reasoning rather than emotion to get out of a request: Using emotions or excuses adds to the feeling and makes things unpleasant. Instead, when rejecting someone, rely on reasoning. Consider saying something like, "We are currently at maximum capacity, and taking on more work will degrade our quality."
"No operation can be good at everything simultaneously," says author David Maister's professor, Wickham Skinner. In his article "Strategy Means Saying No,” Maister writes that "An operation designed to offer the highest quality is unlikely to be the one that gets the lowest cost, and one that can respond to a huge variety of customized requests will be unlikely to give fast response and turnaround." He added, "Any business that tried to deliver all four virtues of quality, cost, variety, and speed would be doomed to failure."

Bottom line: It's difficult to say no, but successful people do it all the time, especially when they know something isn't going to work, they don't have the skills, or they just don't have the time to do a good job.

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