CEO, Co-Founder of VerbalizeIt
It’s one of the shortest words but one of the hardest for an entrepreneur to utter. When is it okay to say, “no” in the context of building a business? Aren’t we always beholden to our customers? Do right by them always and surely you’ll build the right business, right?
No. Not necessarily.
Saying “yes” to everything, especially those requests that fall outside of our core competencies can result in an entrepreneur spreading herself far too thin. I suggested this much in a recent post titled, “The Dirtiest Word in an Entrepreneur’s Vocabulary.”
Secondly, you can’t simply skate to where the puck is today. The truly disruptive entrepreneur skates to where she believes the puck is headed. Customers don’t always know what they want and you as the entrepreneur are the visionary. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should never validate your business concepts with your customers. Customer feedback is incredibly important, but nothing truly disruptive was created from following the status quo. It’s up to you to filter the good feedback from the bad as you execute on your business strategy.
Easier said than done, right?
What if by turning down this opportunity I’m missing out on an enormous payday? Call this the FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) that any rational person experiences.
When we launched VerbalizeIt, it was near impossible to turn away from revenue opportunities, even if they fell outside of our core strengths. For example, as a crowdsourced translation business, we attracted requests from companies looking to utilize our workforce to transcribe content. Initially, we accepted such requests. Revenue is revenue, right? Unfortunately, doing so meant launching additional product lines and the process severely strained our precious time, financial and talent resources. Ultimately, we learned to focus in on our strength and on the path most closely aligned with our vision. It was a near-term revenue tradeoff in order to achieve our long-term and more impactful vision.
The good entrepreneur does her best to listen to her customers. The great one is able to incorporate the right customer feedback without losing sight of the long-term vision.
How has saying “no” positively or negatively affected your business?
Ryan Frankel is CEO of VerbalizeIt. He’s a travel and endurance athletics enthusiast and a former investor on behalf of Goldman Sachs. In 2014, he was named CEO of the Year by SmartCEO Magazine and he is an Inc. Magazine Top 35 Under 35 Entrepreneur. He lives in New York City with his beautiful wife and pair of running shoes. Write to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.