How Learning to Say “No” Can Help Your Startup

This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.

For startups, there can be a lot of pressure to say “yes.” You want your business to grow, and taking on new clients or customers seems like a surefire way to do that. But the most important skill that startup business leaders can master is the ability to gracefully say “no” to offers and potential work that are not right for their businesses.

Taking the time to pause and decide whether the client is a good fit for your company can save you a lot of grief in the long run and can actually help you build your business and your brand. Here’s why.

Mismatched Clients Affect Your Brand

Not every client who approaches you will match your brand. Your startup has a distinct mission, and you should avoid working with clients that don’t align with your brand and mission. 

It’s important to prioritize clients who you can serve well. Ensuring that you align with the client in terms of goals and objectives is key. “Look for deep partners,” says Beverly Brooks Thompson, managing director at Carter Global. You want clients who will be engaged collaborators, not ones who are looking for you to save them or who won’t be an active partner. 

“No one wants to work on a project with a client and create a plan that sits on a shelf with no results,” says Brooks. Even worse, the client may blame you for the lack of results, and your startup will suffer the hit to its brand reputation.

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