Saying No is a Foundation Skill for Founders

You might think saying ‘no’ is simply the luxury of an established business who has the privilege to turn down an opportunity that isn’t dead-on perfect.  

But you’d be wrong. Dead wrong.  

Saying ‘no’ is one of the fundamental business skills never taught in any school, let alone in business school. Hah!  

It can only really be learned by uncritically accepting opportunities or offers that appear out of the blue, emotionally caving to them, and then suffering the consequences. This may already have happened to you. And I’m sorry. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. And you’ve probably learned from it. If not, this episode will ensure that you do.  

For CPG startups, the art of saying ‘no’ is immediately necessary once you advertise your existence publicly. You will immediately become swamped with offers, pitches, etc. There is an army of small businesses that make ALL their money among the constant churn of sub-$500,000 a year startups in CPG. This is, after all, where 80% of the brands can be found.   

It is essential to deploy ‘no’ in the early years when small CPG businesses often get approached by any all manner of predators in sheep’s clothing.  

Am I being dramatic? I wish I were. So, let me describe these predators, large and small.  

Digital marketing agencies (the loners, mostly). Accountants. Individual brokers (ugh). Angel investors with no track record in CPG. Short-term, high-interest loan outfits. Amazon agencies. Sales consultants. PR agents. PR platforms. Pay-to-play events with supposed ‘exposure’ for your brand. Trade shows looking to sell you booths before you’re ready.  Even creepy PR agents claiming to work for Martha Stewart(!). Seriously, that really happened to one of my clients.  

Basically, any individual offering any kind of service totally unsolicited by you is almost always an excuse to say ‘no.’ They don’t know anything about your needs but are already pitching? How does this make sense? Chances are your Linkedin message box has already had many such unsolicited pitches from all manner of folks, offering things you didn’t even realize were things, let alone things you needed to pay for.  

Continued on Episode 33 of Startup Confidential, which drops this Sunday morning, Nov. 1. Subscribe on iTunes now or bookmark my podcast page.

Dr. James Richardson

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