When entrepreneurs dive into a new venture, they’re generally on the lookout for any and every opportunity that comes their way. While being open to different ideas and possible pivots can be crucial for a startup to get some initial traction, that doesn’t mean this strategy should remain in place throughout the lifetime of a startup.
Eventually, a startup that does have legs will begin building some momentum. And once that happens, things can start to snowball very quickly. A founder that used to spend most of their day hoping for a single call or email may suddenly find themselves with a flood of communication.
Although finally seeing some momentum after working so hard to create it can be very exciting, this is also a stage that startups have to navigate very carefully. Regardless of the size of a startup’s team or if they’ve raised any funding, there’s still only going to be so much that can get done in a day. That reality is why trying to take advantage of every single opportunity that becomes available can actually be a recipe for disaster.
By stretching themselves too thin, startups often get in a position where they’re chasing a dozen different opportunities. The cost of being in a position with a lack of focus is not having anything executed to the highest level of quality. That leaves a startup at risk of disappointing users and being susceptible to a competitor that’s much more dialed in with their efforts.
How to Know When to Say No
While it’s fairly easy to understand why saying no can be so important for a startup, actually putting this advice into practice can be much more of a challenge. That’s why we want to cover three different examples of how to say no.
The first is in regards to development. Once you start having real users, they’re all going to have suggestions for features that should be added. But instead of automatically saying yes to every request, a better option is to listen for recurring requests. By separating one-time requests and things that are requested by numerous users, you can prioritize which features are actually worth the investment of development resources.
The second example is for raising money. If a partner isn’t right because of a different vision for the company, saying no to that source of funding may be the decision that prevents a startup from getting on a path to eventually flaming out. Finally, although speaking gigs can be a great way for a startup founder to network and build visibility, they can also be a huge drain. That’s why any established founder should be saying no more times than yes for speaking opportunities.