One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in business is that just because we can do something — either well or poorly — doesn’t mean we should do it. After all, being capable of doing things is not the same as being required to do them. And like most business lessons, I learned this one the hard way.
In the early days of my career in the industry, I tried to do everything possible for a client. And I tried to do it all myself.
Need a logo cleaned up? Sure, I can do that! And I don’t mean jobbing it out. I mean physically doing it myself! Does the fact that I have no art background at all slow me down? Nope. I’ll just figure it out and dive right in.
Need “just-over-cost” pricing on that order? Sure, I can do that. It’s not like I need profit margins to survive, right?
Need rush service? Sure, I can do that, too. I don’t mind eating rush charges for a first-time client who may or may not pay me at all.
Want me to drop off the order in person? Sure, I can do that. Maybe I can find a pair of brown shorts and pretend I’m the UPS guy. That’d be awesome!
Need me to wait 45 to 60 days to get paid? Sure, I can do that. Functioning as an unpaid banker is something I’ve always aspired to — despite my desperate financial situation.
It’s amazing what we’ll do in the early days when we don’t know what we’re doing.
We Can Do All Kinds of Things For Our Clients.
But Just Because We Can… Should We?
In some cases, maybe we should. But in many cases, the answer is a resounding “no!”
Naturally, we want to provide our clients with an exceptional experience. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t accommodate a client’s reasonable requests whenever possible. But when the requests start to pile up, wasting our time and crushing our profit margins, it’s sometimes best to just say no.
Two Kinds of No
In fact, there are two kinds of no we should learn how to say:
First, is the public no. This is when we actually have to say “no” to our clients. We do this in response to requests that will actually harm you or your business. For instance, if your margin structure won’t support the discount they’re asking for, it’s best to tell them you just can’t do it.
Moreover, if you don’t have the financial wherewithal to carry an order past 90 days, don’t wreck your credit rating by telling them you’ll do it. Just say no.
Second, is the private no. This is the no we should say to ourselves when we’re tempted to do something that we know we should delegate to someone else. For example, “No, I won’t clean up that logo myself. But I will job it out to someone who will do a better job than I would, in a fraction of the time — and for far less than it would cost me to do it myself.” Or, “no, I won’t stop what I’m doing, run over and pick up those blank shirts, but I will send someone else to do it, or have them shipped, while I continue to sell.”
Finally, there are some things we shouldn’t do for clients at all because those things are bad for business. There are other things we need to do for clients, that we shouldn’t do ourselves.
In both those cases, remember just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
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