Sometimes it is better to say 'no'

Many people who know me will probably raise an eyebrow when they see the title of this blog post. In my private life, I have been saying 'yes' to almost any question or challenge since childhood and I will probably keep doing the same thing for the rest of my life. So, out of all the people in the world, why would I create a post about saying 'no'? Because I believe in business life, a 'no' means not settling for less and saying 'yes' to quality. While saying 'no' might sound or feel negative, it will ultimately help contribute to a positive outcome.


Yes, I'm a perfectionist, simply because I care. I care about my clients, their concepts, and more importantly: I care about the details. Details matter. There were more social networks available when Facebook launched, and there are several alternatives to Airbnb, Amazon or Deliveroo. If you are launching a similar service, the smallest detail can make the biggest difference. For instance, having a noble purpose, treating your customers in unique ways or slightly changing your concept. Unfortunately, I have seen many great ideas become mediocre due to various reasons such as launching too fast, external involvement, addressing the wrong audiences and more. While you can't prepare yourself for every pitfall, you can at least make sure you tick all the boxes. Sometimes it is better to say 'no' to a launch date; extend the deadline, reconsider your core or even get back to the drawing table. Not settling for less, you come up with a better strategy or concept that is more in line with the initial vision that you had or that serves your audience in better ways. Saying 'no' moves you from potentially being mediocre towards becoming outstanding.


Over the past months, I have been helping several startup entrepreneurs fine-tune their brands, marketing, products and services. Honestly, I sometimes feel bad slowing down a launch by advising to go one step back, yet I love seeing the sparkle in the eyes of an entrepreneur when all the pieces of the puzzle start to fit during the process. And that usually happens within just one or two weeks; by improving one detail all other elements often already fall into place. I take my hat off to these entrepreneurs who dared to say 'no' to their deadlines and decided to invest in re-evaluating their concept.


So, when would I consider saying 'no' while running my business? That could be in any situation and it is oftentimes a 'gut feeling'. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror knowing I did my best to stick to the principles that I stand for. For instance, I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all strategy. And I can't add value when people are only willing to invest in marketing to push their products, while the heart & soul of the company isn't captured well enough. So I have learned that these people wouldn't be the right clients for me; I just wish I had met them at an earlier stage so I would have been able to help them improve their essence before go-live. Also, ever since I launched my venture I have been approached by people and companies who want to collaborate with me. While collaboration can be interesting I always consider the options and consequences. Do we share a passion? What are the quality standards? How can we jointly add value? What is the image of this company, knowing it will reflect on me as well? As mentioned, when weighing the options my gut feeling comes in place. Some might call it a lack of entrepreneurial spirit; to me, it is sticking to my principles. Just like how you choose the right friends in your private life.