Why We Won’t Take Your Money

Saying “No” as a Success Strategy


It’s hard for young companies to say “no” to things like more money, new opportunities and faster growth.

Although it seems counterintuitive in the short term, saying “no” at the right times is a much better long-term success strategy than jumping at every chance to make a fast buck or release a cool new feature.

My company builds custom software, often for startups. We say “no” to new projects all the time — far more often than we say “yes,” and here’s why:

Saying “no” makes you better.

Leaders who routinely say “no” make their companies better as a result. The best leaders always say “no” to:

· Being all things to all people.

· “The customer is always right.”

· Growth at any cost.

· Keeping up with the other guys.

Saying “no” to “opportunities” like these makes you better because:

You do only the work that brings out your passion.

Doing work you’re passionate about brings out the best in both you and your team. It clarifies your message and keeps you focused. Passion helps you see the difference between “bigger, better, faster, sexier” and “more valuable.”

Saying “no” also makes you better because:

You focus on your core strength as a team.

When you’re focused on your core strength, you consistently deliver value for your customers. You continuously improve. You become the very best at what you do. When you’re the best, sales go up, profits go up, and both client and team happiness go up.

When we choose projects to say “yes” to, we start with this:

Can we delight the customer?

Unhappy customers yell, they don’t pay their bills, and they say bad things about you. Happy customers, on the other hand, pay you on time and are generally pleasant to work with. Delighted customers are fantastic to work with, they keep coming back for more, and they tell their friends about you.

We know we can only delight a customer if:

· We’re doing what we’re best at.

· We’re building the right thing at the right time.

· We’re focused on the customer’s long-term success.

· We’re able to consistently deliver value.

We know that in order for those conditions to be met, four things must be true:

  1. The client has a solid plan to turn their product into a business.
  2. There’s money available not just to build the product, but also to iterate and acquire users.
  3. The client is motivated and able to push ahead through challenges. Startups are never easy.
  4. We’re truly the right team for the job (and sometimes we’re not).
Saying “no” takes discipline and focus.

As leaders, we have to have the ability to see the forest, not just the trees, and consider carefully the long-term impacts of every “yes.”

When you hear things like:

“We can figure out how to monetize it later…”

“Someone asked for this feature, so it’s top priority…”

“We don’t need to worry about sales and marketing now. If we build it, they will come…”

“I know this is going to be huge. Let’s skip validation and just go for it…”

What will your answer be?


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