Say "No" to Saying “Yes” (And Watch Your Business Take Off!)
The cost of saying “Yes” in your business is way too high.
When we try to be everything to everybody...
When we chase shiny objects that have the “promise” of making lots of money...
We waste our limited time and energy.
It makes it so much more difficult to achieve our goals.
We feel overstretched, anxious that any wrong move will cause the whole business to come crashing down.
And that’s the main reason behind most of our business headaches.
Does this sound familiar?
(I’ll be honest: I've been there before. It’s one of the three fatal mistakes I made that destroyed my first business.)
It's a terrible price to pay. Yet most entrepreneurs pay it day after day after day.
How do we escape this cycle of frustration so we can focus on what’s important in our business?
By learning when to say “No”.
And we do that by aligning everything in your business to the only things that matter: Your business mission and your customer.
What Is Alignment?
Alignment happens when every part of the business is working towards advancing its business mission and solving your customer needs.
The formula looks like this:
Alignment = what our customers buy = what we sell = advances our business mission
EVERYTHING in your business that doesn’t focus on those areas needs to be eliminated.
For example, let’s take a company that helps athletes improve their performance on the field by selling vitamins to supplement their diet, that’s strategic alignment.
Their mission is helping athletes improve their game.
They are selling supplements to bridge the gap.
And their clients are athletes who are looking for ways to improve their game.
Simple as that. We should be able to draw a line from our business mission to our operations to our customer.
This is one of the most powerful formulas in business...so simple and so fundamental…yet too many businesses out there don’t take the time to do it.
And instead of building, they are chasing.
It’s amazing: I have met many companies that are selling stuff that does not bring them closer to their business mission, to the reason they began the business to begin with.
It’s as if that company I was just talking about, that was selling supplements to help athletes improve their game, instead of selling vitamins, they sold say comic books or donuts.
When we strategically align, get rid of all that unnecessary fluff and complexity, and simplify our business through alignment, we get all that wasted time, money, and energy back to triple down on what truly matters.
And we learn the art of saying “No”.
Our business mission is our reason our business exists and what it's trying to achieve.
It gives the business direction.
What happens when a company doesn’t have a clearly defined mission?
If you don’t a mission, then you don’t know where you’re going. And more dangerously, you don’t know if you’re going the wrong way.
And that means it isn’t clear when to say “No”.
Our default is “Yes” because “Maybe this is what our business needs.”
When our mission is clearly defined, we know where we are going. And we can orient ourselves and figure out how to get there.
We can choose to serve a niche of customers that shares the same values or wants to advance the same mission.
We can simplify our business so that everything we do advances our mission and provides value to our customers.
We can hire a team that shares our business values and is passionate about advancing our mission.
We can allocate our resources and commit to the most important things that matter in our business.
That commitment gives us the time and space to grow.
Being more selective with saying “Yes” means being more generous in saying “No”.
We say “No” to all the shiny objects that bring the promise of revenue but distracts us from tripling down on what’s important.
We say “No” to wasting time trying to be everything to everyone so we can focus on the niche of customers that align with our business values.
We say “No” to hiring superstars that can deliver results but create a toxic environment for your business.
You see how this laser focus is a game changer?
When we clarify our mission, we commit to investing our heart, soul, and resources towards advancing in that direction. And that gives us the freedom to say “No” to all the things that don’t get us there.
And “Yes” to what does. Like solving our customer needs.
Saying “No” to customers can seem strange at first. How can you say no to revenue?
But if you have been saying “Yes” to everyone, you may be feeling like you’re being pulled into too many different directions at once.
You’re learning the hard way that customers aren’t all created equal.
One powerful technique to help discover who your high value customers are is the 80/20 analysis, or the Pareto Principle.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Pareto principle, it goes like this: 20% of our input is responsible for about 80% of the output.
That’s true to many areas in life. 20% of our time yields about 80% of our happiness. 20% of our friends bring about 80% of the value in our relationships.
The same is true for customers. 20% of our customers bring about 80% of our revenue. Meaning 80% of our customers are only bringing 20% of our revenue.
This 80% percent are lower quality customers. Those 80% are the source of most of our customer related problems.
So it makes sense to say “No” to those 80%, and reinvest our time and resources into cultivating that 20% of our customer base that provides most of our value.
That’s why narrowing down our niche of customers is so critical. We say “No” to the 80% of customers that provide the least value and the most headaches.
Can you imagine a world where 80% of your business headaches are gone?
Here’s what happens when we more cautiously say “Yes”:
We can dedicate more resources to overdeliver to our most valuable customers
We can discover patterns among the niche and incorporate them into improving the quality of our services
That extra attention begins forming a loyal tribe of customers
So find your 20%, ask them what they want, and give it to them.
How Do We Align Our Business?
Here’s the good news: Deciding on your business mission and homing in on a specific niche of customers was the hard part. By far.
As long as you can keep your focus on your mission and your customer, it’s a question of simplifying your business ops.
First, let me point out two common mistakes I see when companies try to align:
1. Aligning your business doesn't mean you stop testing or that you don’t allow for failure -
When we have to decide whether a new venture aligns, the test is more important than the result.
A simple rule of thumb when deciding whether a test aligns is: would a positive result advance our business purpose AND improve our customer offer?
For example, let’s say we have a video editing business in Houston, USA and in doing our research we see that over 45% of the population speaks Spanish.
So, in this example, we decide to test and allocate 10% of our marketing budget to gauge demand for our existing services in Spanish.
Regardless of the what the result is – whether it’s positive or negative – this test aligns with advancing your mission and serving your customers.
If in the same example, we see that the population is almost half Latino and we decide to test opening a Latino restaurant or an English language school, that does not align with our business mission.
That means that precious resources will move away from what’s important in your business towards an opportunity that doesn’t align with why your business exists.
2. Aligning also does not mean you don’t invest in your team - The best way you can remain aligned is by investing in your team.
Everyone wins when your team understands what it is building towards, and every member can connect their role to the mission and to your customer. So make sure you give them what they need and get out of their way.
A simple but effective technique to align is performing an 80/20 analysis of all business tasks and operations. Go line by line and identify the 20% of tasks that accounts for 80% of the value – that best advances your business mission and solves your customer needs.
Everything else – the 80% that only provides minimal value - should be eliminated.
Notice how much more time and space you have once you get rid of all those tasks.
(This is a technique I do once every month, and it keeps me homed in on making sure I’m spending energy on the important tasks. I’m always surprised how in the space of just a month, I sometimes find unnecessary tasks that have crept into my business.)
The best way to stop saying “Yes” is to learn when to say “No”. And saying “No” becomes easy when we commit to only advancing the two most important parts of our business – advancing our mission and doubling down on your customer.