As a business owner, saying no probably doesn’t come easy. It’s even more difficult in the current climate as you feel the need to say yes to everyone, as every bit of business counts. It’s essential to remain focused on what matters to you as a business owner and what’s important for the survival and growth of your business.
There are situations that arise in your business that can really test you. They may come from your customers, your team members, vendors or even friends and family. One of the biggest tests is whether you have the strength to say ‘no’ when you need to.
Learning to set boundaries and stand by your principles and values is an important lesson in business and in life. You may need to develop habits that will help you to succeed when it comes to setting limits and saying no.
We’ve set out the four most common areas in your business where you may need to set boundaries. It’s not always going to be easy, but it will be worth it.
Saying no to your customers
Having to say no to a customer or potential customer can be difficult, after all, the aim of business is to gain customers, not lose them, right? Most people hate confrontation, and you don’t want them, yourself, or your staff members to be upset. You may also fear any negative backlash such as a bad review.
Whatever the situation is, where you find yourself having to say no to a customer, the best approach might be to take a breath, stay calm, listen, acknowledge their request, concern, or complaint, and respectfully stand your ground. If it’s not urgent, you could let the customer know you need some time to assess the matter and get back to them. This can give you (and them) time to clear your head.
Customer service training drums into you that ‘the customer is always right,’ which, as you know is not always the case. If you can communicate your ‘no’ confidently, calmly, firmly and with respect, reminding yourself it’s not about winning an argument, but staying true to your values, that’s the best you can do in any situation.
Saying no to your staff
When setting clear boundaries with your employees you need to firstly know your rights, responsibilities, and legal obligations and always adhere to those. Of course, saying no to your team members is completely different to saying no to a customer. If you’ve built a great team, they will feel more like family than staff, so it can be extremely tricky to set boundaries with them.
Just like family, your staff may try to test the boundaries from time to time. You don’t particularly need to have a mountain of hard and fast rules, after all a little flexibility goes a long way in the workplace. What you do need is clear guidelines, so your team members know exactly where they stand. For example, you may be strict on start and finish times, but have more flexibility around lunch breaks.
If you lead by example, it will be easier for your team to follow you. If you break the rules that you expect them to follow, it will be harder to gain their respect and for them to trust that when you say no, you mean it.
Saying no to your vendors
It’s usually easier to say no to vendors as you likely haven’t built a close relationship with them. Still, if they’re a good salesperson or even just a nice person, it can be hard to tell them ‘no thanks.’ As with customers, the scenarios for vendors pushing the boundaries are too numerous to cover.
Often just saying no will be enough. If you’re wishy-washy, they will persist, after all, they’ve done all the sales training and have plenty of ways to get to that all-important yes. Remember it’s their job to convince you that your business needs whatever widget they’re selling. Be strong, clear and stick to your values. If they don’t respect your ‘no’ ask them to leave and report them to their company. Whatever you do, don’t say yes just to get rid of them. You may regret it.
Saying no to your friends and family
Saying no to friends and family is the most difficult by far and the scenarios are endless. It could be friends expecting ‘mates-rates,’ a family member who wants to tell you how to run your business, or someone wanting a job when you know it just wouldn’t work.
The best policy, hard as it may be sometimes, is, to be honest with them. Let them know how difficult it is to say no to them. Give them the reasons why and don’t feel pressured to enter into a discussion or argument about it. It is your business after all. You might offer them a small discount or a one-off deal if that’s viable, listen to their ideas if they’re trying to help or do what you can to help them find a job elsewhere.
It’s OK to say no
It’s also ok to just say no. Remind yourself you are saying no for the good of your business. Continue to stand by your principles and values while being respectful in every situation. Saying no also gives you the space to say yes to what’s truly important in your business and your life.
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