Friday, November 30, 2018

Reasons to Say No

I recently found myself in the position of saying no to two opportunities for many complicated reasons. Shortly afterward this great article turned up in my inbox. It was a link from another knitting industry insider. It confirmed that my decisions were correct.

The full article is here:   
by Kevin Daum

I've added in my own comments with each reason.

1.  Say NO! When No One Is Ready
Many people say yes to a boss or customer request when the pieces of the puzzle aren't in place. Great work requires preparation. Great teams require alignment. If your team isn't prepared or aligned, agreeing to take on difficult initiatives is a disaster waiting to happen. Young companies often try to speed forward before their organizational structure or business model is ready. They instead end up burning investor money while killing dreams and reputations. Say No! so you can get everything and everyone on board and ready. Then you can say yes with confidence.

I've had lots of conversations with people who wanted commitment to projects which clearly hadn't been thought through at any level of detail. More than a couple of answers to my questions of "we haven't worked that out yet" are a huge red flag.    

2. Say NO! When It's Not a Fit
Salespeople and entrepreneurs alike tend to see the potential in everything and everybody. But a ton of time is wasted on prospects who are never going to be customers, never going to invest, or never going to be amazing employees. Instead of looking for all the reasons why things will work out, save time by focusing on the reasons they won't. Even if you say No!, you can always revisit the opportunity if compatibility improves.

This happened to me on many occasions. People would ask me about collaborative projects that didn't really work with what I was doing. As an example a printer who wanted to get in on the business of printing patterns and was very confused about the PDF pattern download world. 

3. Say NO! When You're Overloaded
Some people are afraid to say No! even when they have too much on their plates. They think it's necessary to respond positively all the time to avoid disappointing others. Then they let things fall through the cracks, get sick or have a breakdown. In this case, an impossible yes causes far more frustration then just saying No! in the first place. Have a realistic sense of your capacity and don't go past your limit.

I made this mistake once and spent quite a few very late nights trying to live up to my commitment. Lesson well learned.

4.  Say NO! When It's Unrealistic
You can't assume that every request has been thought through in detail. Often people ask for what they want with little or no consideration of what's involved for delivery. I never subscribe to the "customer is always right" theory. As a consultant, I wonder, if they are always right, why would they want to pay me? Be the expert when someone asks for something. If you don't know how it works, do your homework and say yes only when you know it can really happen. Otherwise, keep that "maybe" handy.

I once committed to something, thinking that the request was complete only to discover that every week the expectations had been increased. I met the first ask but tried to pull out of the deal on the next which was even more unrealistic. In the end they wanted the pattern as it was instead of insisting on the additional work. It taught me a lot about establishing complete parameters early on in a project.

5. Say NO! When You Have to Go Backwards
It's hard enough to move steadily toward your goals without having to regain lost ground. When approached with an opportunity that doesn't obviously propel you forward, ask yourself: "Why am I even interested in this?"  You may be surprised to find there is simply no justification for saying yes. When that happens, loudly declare No! and move on to opportunities that better align with your goals.

There's a supposition on the part of those who don't write patterns that all other work (teaching and speaking) is just done to promote pattern sales. It takes me about three weeks of full time hours to write a class or presentation. I see that as separate work not promotional work. I think of my Ravelry ads and social media as promotional. The catch all phrase "you should do it for the exposure" gets loud groans inside the industry because we all hear it so often.
6.  Say NO! When It's Unprofitable
You are in business for many reasons, but nearly everyone--founders and employees alike--is in it to profit. Not all profit is related to money, although young entrepreneurs should take note that consistent monetary profit does help your sustainability and your valuation. Sometimes a transaction can pay off in connections, exposure, learning, satisfaction or, yes, money. But when a transaction does nothing to better the people involved, then the word No! should be used. The key is to make sure everyone in the company can understand, recognize and justify a profitable deal. That requires openness and education, so get to work.

The minute I published my first pattern I started getting requests for freebies. In the beginning I was generous and did things at a financial cost to me. After a few discussions with industry insiders I realized that I was doing a disservice to everyone by artificially reducing margins.  I'm in touch with a number of teacher/designers who have left the industry who all cite free patterns and the undercutting of  payments by newbies trying to get their start in the knitting world. I also had a few pros who were very angry at those of us who did this and didn't hesitate to let me know. 

This goes on for several reasons. First, lack of knowledge on the part of organizers, the knitting world is full of wonderful volunteers and new business owners popping up all the time who don't yet have a handle on the marketplace. Secondly, due to the total stagnation of compensation in the knitting world. Payment is set in the mind of the person making the offer and varies widely between organizations or within them during management changes.  Ten years in and I still receive teaching offers for less than what I got in my first year. My favourite ridiculous offer is the profit sharing scheme with no basic compensation to cover my expenses for travel, food or accommodation. I think in this case the organizer was not low balling teachers she really didn't know what the margins actually are. She seemed convinced we'd all be making a reasonable amount. Finally it's a world of women who play by the rules of a hobby and want to play nice. 

7.  Say NO! When You Can't Meet Expectations
People are often optimistic about how quickly and how well they can get things done. Combine that hopefulness with the desire to please a customer, and you are left over-promising and under-delivering. Save yourself the mea culpa and say No! to what you know you can not do. Be accountable and manage expectations. Whatever you do, don't say yes to get the deal signed if you're assuming that, once the prospects are in the door, they'll have to adapt to your change in quality, timing or price. After they realize what's happened, few will come back to say yes and do business with liars.

I previously worked in two industries which were both highly time pressured. I have a very strong protectionist attitude when it comes to not over committing. It's amazing how hard others will push to get you to commit to their timeline when you're being very clear it can't be done.


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