The importance of saying “No”

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“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much” — Steve Jobs

To say “No” to a friend or relative is difficult, now imagine saying “No” to a colleague or client.  Indeed, a very awkward and difficult thing to do but it is essential if you want to have “laser-like” focused-growth in your business.  There are 2 scenarios where saying “No” is essential and important.  The 2 scenarios are the following:


  1. Clients asking for changes or new features that are not product fit– This one is a big one for me and most of the time we tell our clients we cannot change or add a new feature.  If it’s a bug, of course we will address it.  If it’s something minute, I get it.  If it will benefit everyone on the platform, I understand.  But if it’s a unique change for one client then we say “No”.  The problem with always saying “Yes” to your clients is that you will never be able move your product along the development road-map.  You will incur massive tech debt.   There is always a way to address your client gently; to not offend that person.  I am definitely not saying to scream: “Hell No” when a client asks for something that is not a fit, but rather, to tell him or her that it’s not a feature the company can work on at the moment.  There is always a discussion around this topic with respect to keeping customers happy.  When you say “No” to a customer it really has nothing to do with support.  In fact, I think that support is a 2 way street.  My definition of support is to address every question or issue my customer has within reasonable limits.  Remember, a business is in the “business” to make money and you have to make decisions to keep it around.  If you were to coddle every customer (which would be great) then you may not be around for long.  As a result,  that customer will not benefit from your product anymore.
  2. Bad prospective clients – Yes, I mean saying “No” to a new client.  There are some clients that are not worth pursuing.  You can generally sense if a potential client is problematic before you engage in business and it is better to terminate the relationship if its going to cause problems down the road.  Again, some clients ask for unreasonable amounts of support.  To me, this can drain a company’s resources.  This to me is losing or wasting time, which ultimately is losing the business money.  Also, there are some clients that are not effective communicators.  If a client does not respond to phone calls, emails or are just too busy I stay clear of them.

Another thing to note is that a “No” from a prospective client to You is beneficial as well.  I believe that a “No” is better than a “I don’t know”.  Think about it, if you are trying to understand status with a prospective client and the answer is always “I don’t know” you continue to waste time and energy following up by writing emails or calling them on the phone.  But a “No we are not interested” is final.  This eliminates following up and the company can move in another direction swiftly.

I hope this article helps someone who struggles with saying “No” to customers when it’s appropriate.  To be honest, I still fall into this trap from time to time and I have seen others fall into this scenario many times.  It is okay to say “No” when it’s justified.  And remember there is always a gentle way of saying it.

5 most important principles of business success

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I write and think a lot about the software business. I am passionate about this industry segment and find it very interesting and self-fulfilling.  Over the last 12 years I have learned a lot about the business and I have experienced many successes and failures.  I measure success in business in 2 ways: profit and growth.  Below are the top 5 characteristics I’ve seen in software businesses that bolster increasing profits and growth.  I try to employ these characteristics or principles in my business everyday and I am sure I still need more practice on some (or all) of these.

  1. Continuous Commitment– This to me is by far the most important principle.  The most difficult thing to do is to work and move ahead when times are difficult.  It is easy to get things done (or write a blog post) when everything is going well.  The real challenge for businesses or entrepreneurs are when times are not ideal.  For example, I sometimes find it difficult to start my day because I did not sleep well. I have 2 kids and I can tell you that while they are my world they can be exhausting.  In the theatrical world there is a saying that goes: “the show must go on”, which means that actors must perform at a high level on stage regardless of how they feel emotionally.  In my opinion, it’s the same in business.  There is a commitment to perform at a high level with your clients or customers on a daily basis.   If you demonstrate this continuous commitment to excellence I guarantee it will propel company profits and growth.
  2. Passion for work– This characteristic is the most evident or obvious to people when a working relationship is initiated.  Clients can tell if you love what you do.  When there is passion for work it permeates and flourishes in every facet of the company.  Moreover, people want to be around a business that has a passion for the work they create.  Think about it, when you work with people who are passionate about their work, they genuinely care about you and your needs.  This type of scenario for a business leads to customer satisfaction, which inevitably creates more profit and growth.
  3. Monetary Awareness– This is a principle to be mindful of in both business and personal life.  To me monetary awareness is the practice of intentionally thinking through purchases or spending habits.  This type of awareness may not lead to profits directly but can serve as a guard rail to ensure financial stability.  If the business is spending money irresponsibly then the company will fail due to cash flow, etc.  Ultimately, this has a direct impact on the bottom line and future of the company.
  4. Eagerness for Learning– I wrote an article about the importance of “Tinkering” a couple of weeks ago.  It is imperative that we never stop learning or “playing around” with new concepts in our respective industry.  When we are constantly seeking out knowledge we become more creative and formulate new and interesting ideas.  Simply stated, knowledge is power. We’ve heard that saying a thousand times.  The more you acquire the more it can influence your products and other vertical opportunities.
  5. Take Action– Plain and simple some people never take action.  There are a lot of people that over analyze next steps and get caught in a “paralysis by analysis” scenario.  Having said this, there is a difference between taking action and being in motion.  A person in motion is someone who is always busy but never produces results.  Motion in this case is not calculated action and is doing something just to stay busy.  In other words, nonsense work.  Taking action is thoughtful and calculated.  It is well thought out and time limited.  Once you are content with a decision and your gut is in accordance the action is taken.  In my opinion, it is better to make a decision and fail then to not initiate an action at all or be in a motion loop.

In summary, these 5 characteristics are critical to business success in my opinion.  There are clearly more principles, traits, concepts, etc that go into what makes a business click but I personally feel that these have been the most important in my experience.  I hope that this has helped someone who is trying to incorporate a better culture or business experience for their clients or employees. 🙂


The importance of “tinkering”

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For lack of a better term, “tinkering” to me is the practice of  working or “playing around” with new ideas or technologies in business.  The concept of “tinkering” is a very important aspect of how I look at technology and the software business.

There are always many things to do and projects to complete in any given week.  The work is always going to be there.  For sure.  However, it is important that every week I spend a little time researching new concepts or ideas that are out there.  For example, for one of my products I am “tinkering” with facial recognition technology.  I have tried many times to add this technology to one of my products but I have not been successful in doing so.  There is one particular facial recognition solution (or API): Kairos that I have been “tinkering” with for weeks.  I continuously try to find ways to make this technology more accurate so I can use it in my own products.  The point is that every week I search for a new way (or new angle) to enhance every piece of software I am working on.  The process of “tinkering” ignites creative thought and keeps the business innovative and fresh.  I had a friend tell me in college that “if your not working to get better, you are getting worse.”  This quote I believe sums up the concept of “tinkering”.

In summary, in business and in life I think this concept is very important.  If you are not constantly trying to push the envelope or staying in front of your industry, you will be like everyone else.  Don’t you agree?