saying no to the right thingsThere are lots of things in business driving you toward saying “yes” but that is often not the best idea.

For example, everyone’s heard “the customer is always right” but that isn’t always the case and you can be led down the wrong path by mindlessly following that saying. Sometimes the customer is right, but not right for you.

And sometimes the customer is just plain wrong . You don’t want to make enemies but if you can extricate yourself from the situation you can move on to better things and not go through the brain damage of trying to make a bad situation livable.

Learning how to say no is a matter of figuring out what you are going to be really good at and avoiding anything else that will pull you off that path until you are the recognized master of your domain.

Another one to be wary of is “cash is king”. This often translates, particularly in new businesses, into saying yes to jobs for which you are not well suited or only partially capable of completing with the idea you’ll learn as you go or pull in some help as needed.

Sure you’ve landed a job and maybe collected some payment to help your cash flow but the long term harm to your reputation if you screw up and the opportunity cost in not being able to say yes to better fitting jobs because you are tied up on a bad fit is too big of a downside.

It is hard to say no to someone who wants to pay you or to a client who is almost a good fit or to a new line of business you see other people doing well with but often the hard choices are the ones that pay off the best.

Very few true entrepreneurs are good at focusing and saying no- it’s part of what makes them good entrepreneurs. But once you have a business up and running, narrowing down your niche and specializing in fewer things you can do better than others is the fastest path to profits and growth.

It may seem counter-intuitive but turning down work and saying no to clients really can get you to where you want to be faster and do more good for your business than harm.

One way to think of it is to look at the 80/20 rule in reverse. The 20% of marginal jobs you take on are likely to cause 80% of your problems, because you aren’t the best fit for them in the first place. On the other hand, if you focus on the things you do that produce your highest profits and are the least effort, you will probably see the 20% of the business you should really focus on growing to the exclusion of the rest.

Learn how to say no to anything that isn’t right for you. Then you can spend your newly freed time figuring out how to market your business to more of the things that are right for you. Soon enough, you’ll have your fill of top tier clients and you will be turning away a better and better class of customer.

And note while I am saying clients and customers here, this applies to any kind of business. The same holds true for not over expanding your product line, your menu, your locations, etc. Focus and specialize and learn to say no in order to grow and expand beyond your wildest dreams.