How To Feel Better About Saying ‘No’ As A Business Leader


As a business leader, you’ll have to say “no” a lot, whether it’s to an employee, a client or a potentially lucrative business opportunity. However, it can be difficult for some leaders to decline a request and risk disappointing others.

Because turning people down is often part of a leader’s job description, it’s important to develop a healthy mindset about saying “no” and understand that it all comes down to making a sound business decision. To help you do this, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council gave their best advice for getting comfortable with saying “no.”

1. View The ‘No’ As A ‘Yes’

Instead of viewing it as saying “no,” view it as saying “yes” to whatever you are instead saving that time for. This could mean more time for areas of your business where you are likely to get a higher return for your time or more time to rest and recharge with family and friends so you do not get burned out running your business. – Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

2. Mean What You Say

Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Let your words have honor so you only say things that you mean and don’t carelessly blurt out meaningless words. Think thoroughly, and if you need more time to process things, allow yourself to take time to make decisions. At the end of the day, be accountable for your yeses so you’re honest and brave enough when you finally do say “no.” – Daisy Jing, Banish

3. Say ‘No’ Early

Saying “no” is a huge skill to have as an entrepreneur or business owner. A bad client or an ill-fit client can often be worse for your business than a good client is good! No matter how big or how valuable a prospect is, learning to say “no” and say it early can save your team massive time, money and energy. – Torrey Tayenaka, Sparkhouse

4. Recognize That Saying ‘No’ Can Mean Business Success

To change your mindset about saying “no,” simply understand that doing so can make you more productive and your business more successful. Once you understand that and have said “no” on a few occasions, you’ll see for yourself that it’s okay to turn people down from time to time. As an additional point, just because you said “no” to someone in the past doesn’t mean you can’t maintain the relationship and potentially say “yes” in the future. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

5. Keep Your Goals Clear

I know that “shiny object syndrome” is very common among entrepreneurs, but you need to keep your goals clear and stay the course. Saying “no” can only be a problem when you think of it as a potential lost opportunity. It’s not. When you are planning to grow, you’ve got to be able to stick to the plan. Otherwise, you won’t get anywhere. So by saying “no,” you’re just moving closer to your destination. It’s like driving down the highway without taking any turns rather than hitting the brakes. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

6. Look At The Cost

I tell people “no” a lot. This is because what I started noticing is that, in order to be most effective, I need to have a clear direction. So for anything that is not helping me move in that direction, I tell people “no.” For example, I’m into the real estate investment marketing space, where I help real estate investors with their marketing. In addition, I also purchase properties. When any marketing clients come to me in different spaces (outside of real estate), I have to decline them. This is because I look at it as a cost. If I were to take them on, the work falls outside of my systems. That ends up being a cost because it takes more of my time figuring out how to handle their project than working on what I specialize in. – Bryan Driscoll, Motivated Leads

7. Remember The Alternative To Saying ‘No’

When you understand how much worse it is to disappoint people or constantly stress yourself out, you learn to say “no” a bit easier. Saying no needs to be done more often to ensure the quality of your work, your schedule and your mental health. Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself of this when the guilt and need to say “yes” starts to kick in. Remember that your health and the health of your business always need to come first and that you don’t need to feel guilty over that. – Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC

8. Revisit Your Company Mission, Vision and Values

Often, leaders lose sight of how to make decisions when they fall out of alignment with the company’s higher purpose. When leaders set boundaries and focus on the mission, vision and values, they make better decisions. For example, when I focus on our company mission of distrusting the field of dietetics and creating more private practice operators (in the space of registered dietitians), I remember to say “no” to opportunities that don’t align with this vision. For example, we have developed a strategy to launch a lower ticket offer to sell to more clients and we align our marketing efforts to reach more dietitians and help them start a company. Any opportunities that fall out of alignment with our goals are a hard “no.” – Libby Rothschild, Dietitian Boss

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