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The ROI of ‘No’

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The ROI of ‘No’

Want to improve your bottom line? The secret may be one little word –- no.

Saying no can be as simple as turning down a donut with your latte, but more often than not, it’s a complicated situation with mixed emotions. In business, we want to succeed for our families, our teams, our clients and ourselves. Success comes with more responsibility and this can quickly overwhelm our time and energy if we let it. In the frenzy of trying to please everyone, it’s easy to lose sight of your original vision.

The single greatest weapon I’ve learned to use as the CEO of Outspoken Media is the understanding and courage to say no. This isn’t always easy, and I still take on more than I should, but for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and business drive, this isn’t uncommon.

It’s difficult to quantify the ROI of “no,” but in an effort to do just that, we have been focused on better understanding their time over the past few months. How is it being spent? What tasks generate the greatest return for our clients? How can we trim the fat?

There are a number of tools that help us keep track of this work. We use a combination of Raven Tools, Basecamp and Harvest. I’ve also been using Rescue Time to monitor and manage my schedule.

Time is money. Saying no to the wrong projects and ideas ensures that our business is making sound decisions. I’ll give you a recent example. Friday. I had a call with a potential client. We were reviewing a six-figure social media marketing proposal. We knew we could deliver on our reputation and establish their social media presence within their industry. In order to do so, we’d have to hire at least one full-time employee. The client would benefit from our experience, training and lack of overhead on their part. Everything made sense.

My gut told me something different during the call. The more I listened, the more I realized that what they really needed was a full-time, in-house marketer. There were just too many pieces that would need to be coordinated. An agency wasn’t the right fit for their needs. So, I said it. The response? Silence, then shock, followed by appreciation. I was told that my opinion was refreshing and exactly what they’d been thinking. They were testing the waters to see what was out there, but they needed a push to prioritize hiring in-house.

Where was the ROI in turning down lucrative new business? For the client, they’ll see an immediate ROI. They’ll spend half as much hiring a mid-level, experienced employee, which means they’ll have more to invest in the department, tools and consultants for specific projects.

The ROI for us was in being true to our brand.

We’re Outspoken Media, because we’re honest about what we believe our clients need. If we had signed with them, the coordination needed would have quickly overwhelmed a single position cutting into the time needed to get the job done.

In addition, the client may have been satisfied with our work, but they’d always be wondering when they should hire in-house. They just needed a “no” to feel confident in their decision. Now, they trust us and when it comes time to train this new employee or gain guidance on specific social media campaigns, they’ll remember that we were honest and respectful of their time and money.

Beyond client matters, the art of saying no comes into play with hiring and firing. There is no single area of a business that is more important and costly than its manpower. Choosing the wrong team member can cause a business to hemorrhage dollars. Fire fast. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way and at this point in my career, I’ve been accused of being too good at firing.

To me, this is fueled by the fear of losing time and money on a bad relationship. Experience has taught me to say no for the benefit of everyone involved. It’s also shown me when to say yes and trust the incredible team we do have.

Trust your gut. Embrace “no” in the right areas and new opportunities will open, opportunities that are a better match for you, your clients and your business.

Here is some more advice on the strategic use of “no.”

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Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale is Co-founder and CEO of Outspoken Media, which specializes in SEO consulting, link building, reputation management and social ... [Read full bio]

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