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Weekly Thoughts from Godwin Start-Up School

There are moments during my meetings with Start-Up School clients that make my day. Yesterday, I had one of those moments.

One of my clients has submitted a proposal to do work for a prospect that could drastically change his cash flow for the year 2017, and possibly up to 3 years into the future. Yep, it’s a big deal. He and I have talked about it for a few hours now and he asked me to help him put together some profit projections so he knew how much to propose for a monthly retainer for the work.

As with all large proposals, there was some back and forth with my client and his prospect. However, yesterday my client made the statement to me that “This is my price. This is the value we bring, and if they can’t pay that, then we don’t need to do the work.” Consider my heart warmed, folks. When the folded paper was pushed back across the desk to my client with a new proposal, he didn’t even read it. He said “This is what my value is worth. Take it or leave it.”

Most new business owners say “yes” first, then either work themselves to “no” when it doesn’t look like a good fit, or they keep saying “yes” until one day it becomes so clear they made a mistake that they’re forced to say “no.” If possible, you want to find yourself in the first camp. Better yet, you may want to say “no” first and then work yourself up to “yes.” Remember that saying “Yes” to something today means you have to say “No” to something else.


Yes, that’s what I said. Immediately after being approached with a new prospect, try saying “no” in your mind first, then working your way to “yes.” I can’t imagine any entrepreneur when approached with the prospect of working with someone for profit, saying anything but “yes” when the idea crosses their mind (or at least a strong “maybe”, right?). Now, it may take a half-second for them to change their answer when they realize that the owner of the company is a well-known jerk, or that the prospect isn’t in their industry niche, or that they just can’t fit the work in right now due to other obligations. But the first answer is always “yes,” and then a series of thought processes to get to “no.”

When my client told me about this opportunity, the first thing he said was “this could be a game-changer, but if we don’t get it, I’m OK with that. I’m busy right now doing what I love, and I don’t want this large engagement to ruin my company culture.” What a smart thing to say! The thought of all this additional profit was appealing, but he already knew it may not be a good fit. He had already become comfortable with “no,” albeit a hedged “no.”

And now he waits. The ball is not in his court anymore. He has already had two other proposal meetings this week for new business. He will be OK if this other prospect takes his proposal because he built it based on value, but if they pass, then he’s still OK. It’s an enviable position to be in, all because he knew how to say “no.” How comfortable are you with saying “no?”

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