So often in our businesses we are presented with an ‘opportunity’ that sends us into a tailspin. Something that wasn’t even on the radar the day before suddenly becomes paramount in our decision making. In our business, Admiral Road, these have typically been invitations to a new craft or trade show, custom orders for influential clients, or new product ideas. In the early years of our business we were also swayed by what the competition was doing, wondering if we should be doing what they were. Fortunately, we’ve had a secret weapon in our arsenal which has helped us learn when to say yes and when to say no over the years: we know what our company does and we stick to it.
Knowing what you do sounds like a simple concept, but when you’re self-employed it can be very hard to turn down any opportunity to grow or even just make a few dollars. But by knowing what you do, and more importantly what you don’t do, you can save yourself time and money down the road. In MBA parlance, they call this your value proposition – how it is that your company provides value to clients. Over the years, we’ve been asked to do jobs that are really best suited to a different kind of company – I won’t lie, we ran the numbers – but ultimately decided to stick to our knitting and referred clients to other companies. Here’s an exercise: Describe your business in one or two sentences. In our case: Admiral Road makes beautiful, personalized blankets. Simple, right? But by keeping that in mind, when we get a phone call asking us if we can make 10,000 tiny airline blankets for a middle eastern airline (true story) – we know that it’s not what we do, and we’re not the best people for that job. It’s not a matter of refusing to be flexible – it’s a matter of economics. If we take a piece of we’re not organized or optimally tooled for, odds are good we won’t make money on it. Worse, we’ll be distracted from what it is we really do and will miss the actual opportunity – growing our real business.
There are times in our businesses when true opportunities come along – the kind that can propel to us to new heights. The key is to be focussed enough to see these opportunities. Saying No just might be the thing your business needs.
Amy Ballon and Danielle Botterell are co-owners of Admiral Road Designs, a personalized baby blanket company, and co-authors of Mom Inc., How to Raise your Family and your Business without Losing your Mind or your Shirt. With MBAs, and 10 years of experience running a successful business and five young children between them, Amy and Danielle are experts in the field of entrepreneurship, and love to work with and consult to entrepreneurial moms. Amy and Danielle have been featured on CBC TV and radio, Breakfast Television, Global News, the Globe & Mail, National Post, and many other newspapers, magazines and online. Their products have been featured on NBC’s Today Show, InStyle Magazine, Redbook, Parents Magazine and more. Amy and Danielle are frequent speakers and contributing writers on the subject of entrepreneurship as well as consulting to business owners.