When Should You Say No?

In a previous post about the Pitfalls of Running A Christian Business, one of the specific pitfalls I mentioned was that many people think a Christian business should never say no to anything! They evidently believe that having a Christian philosophy means we should agree to help anyone with any cause they have. I am not sure of the basis for this feeling, but I have seen it repeatedly exhibited since we began to attempt to integrate our faith into our business.

say no

WHY Say No?

Before we look at WHEN you should say no, let’s answer another question – one that is central to this post. WHY should you say no to some opportunities? I mean, within reason, shouldn’t we always be prepared to help others? If we say no, are we not turning away those in need? If we say no, are we not missing some good opportunities to impact people?

The truth is we are. When we say no to some opportunities, we are turning some away that are in need and we are missing some good opportunities to impact people. The problem for most people is that they cannot see that it is critical to say no to some good opportunities in order to be available to take advantage of the best opportunities.

Good vs. Great?

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, said that good is the enemy of great. He says we have too few great schools because we have too many good ones. We do not have enough great businesses because we have too many good ones. The same goes for churches, organizations, etc. The problem is that too many people and organizations settle for being good rather than striving for being great!

Rather than saying “Yes!” to every good opportunity that comes along, we should instead save our efforts for the best ones. Rather than spreading ourselves too thin by taking on every good project, we should focus on those that are the best. In this way we are maximizing our effectiveness. We are also leaving those “good” opportunities to someone else that may have a “best” fit with them.

What Next?

So, let’s say you get this philosophy and you agree with it. Now you want to know what to do next. How do you take this philosophy and execute in the Christian business? How do you apply this to your life as a Christian leader?

Let’s look at a few key steps in this process.

    2. Determine your mission

      In what area(s) are you going to focus? What is your purpose?

    3. Determine your resources

      How much time, money, effort, etc. do you have to give to your various roles?

    4. Build in some cushion

      Do not forget to build in some cushion or margin when determining available resources. You should maintain this margin for those times you underestimate a need or when you simply cannot say no!

    5. Be proactive

      Don’t sit and wait on the best opportunities to come to you. Go find them! Create them! Begin investing your resources for an eternal return!

You can use this same list as your litmus test for opportunities that come your way. Does this opportunity fit your gifts? Is it within your mission’s area of focus? Do you have the resources to take it on? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you should think hard about saying no to the opportunity.

Still Unsure?

If you are still unsure, ask yourself this question. If the opportunity fits at least two of these criteria, is it important enough to you that you would be willing to spend some of your cushion in the third category in order to take it on? Sometimes there are simply reasons we know we should not say no. If we have the margin to spend, it can sometimes make sense to say yes.

What first came to mind when you thought about something you should have declined?

Have you had a successful experience saying no?

What are the obstacles to you saying no?

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  • I think one of the biggest problems in people’s lives is trying to fill them too full of too many good things. At some point, we need to make some hard decisions and cut out some of the clutter. I certainly know it’s been true of me.

    • Loren, the same is true of me. It was probably three or four years ago when I realized this truth. I immediately began taking opportunities, when presented, to move gracefully out of “good” positions in the community. I began instead to focus on those areas where I knew I could make the greatest impact.

      Now, years later, it is still a challenge. At the same time, I keep reminding myself of the efficiencies and productivity I have gained since then. When you start to see the positive results, it gets easier to say no!

  • Karen

    I am a Christian Photographer, Writer, and Artist.  I set out to market myself.  So I went to a local deli and told the owner if he needs a photographer I’m the girl!  He told me he needed menus.  I was excited.  I did a draft, he loved- it was black & white.  Low cost for him.  I wrote up my bill, the cost of having me get the menus printed verses handing over the original.  Then it started getting annoying…  First off he negotiated on price for a week.  I was charging a low price to begin with.  So, he got me down to my lowest possible limit in price.  I finished the job and delivered the menus to him, it took 2 weeks.  Should’ve been 2 days.  He never used the menus.  Instead he started coming up with new ideas for full color menus, then post-its with his deli on it.  In the back of my mind I’m thinking, he should be paying for all my research, design ideas, gas, everything- and I knew he would negotiate again…  So… I’m sorry I said yes because I don’t think he will use the menus I did- he’s not doing advertising for his business.  And said, “No” to a second round of work.   I feel a little bad for him.  But can’t afford projects like this.  The original menu was a great opportunity and something new for me just starting out.

    • I think you were wise to say no at that point. What can you do differently the next time at the beginning of the relationship? I am not familiar with the professional photography world, but I assume there are ways to protect yourself from that happening again?

      • Karen

        Good question!  Thanks.

        First I should add that I have been praying for the deli owner.  Clearly he has financial issues for so much negotiation.  What I learned from New York Institute of Photography (my school) was to always start high.  The Advisor I was talking to, said most photographers won’t open their cameras for less than $150 and then the added costs- which should include everything.  One area I need to work on is getting a contract together that’s standard in photography and starting with clear documented pricing and the mock-up.  For this project I did graphic design and photography which should be a little higher than just photos.  In the future it would be wise to not be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t go any lower.”  And if that doesn’t work out, then thank him for his time and move on. And trust the Lord to provide other clients.   We do negotiate within reason in photography. 

        This is my second career- I need to use all the good business skills I learned in the past as well.  One problem with photography is that we don’t have to follow set rates, by not following the norm for pricing we can hurt others in our field. 

        The job I loved the most so far was in a Nursing Home.  It’s always so awesome to bring smiles to the elderly, I can sense the Holy Spirit at work.   Their families loved the photos too (it’s not high paying but enough if you get lots of jobs).  I’d also like to provide my services to Churches, the standard for that is to charge very low ($10 plus printing), and make contacts for future projects.  It’s also a good way to help families that are out of work and can’t afford to go to a studio (I’d cover their costs).  I contacted my Pastor about this and he said they don’t promote anyone’s business at the Church.  It was discouraging, after some prayer and talking to other Christians I realized that it is a service- people like to have portraits.  And many Churches have directories.  So I’m not going to give up on that.

        I just realized evaluating a potential client before approaching them is a good idea.

        • You probably already do this, but I would work hard on getting referrals from previous customers. There is usually less negotiation with referrals or repeat customers. You also mentioned a previous career…I would also look for referrals from the people you worked with then…thoughts on this?

          • Karen

            That’s a very good idea.  I did some photography and writing for an online newspaper, and the people were more than happy to work with me.  My last job in business is too far away to get many referrals.  But I like the idea of networking through my family and friends more.

          • Good luck with that!

          • Karen

            Thanks Chris!  I was reading more on your blog and the light bulb went on : )  The Lord has never sent or called me into the Church for work or ministry.  He’s always sent me out into the world.  By using my photography and talent to serve others, in a professional way, He can use me.  By having a link to my Christian blog from my photography business, He can use that.  So, it makes a ton of sense that He would lead me in that direction now.  Finally faith and work make sense as a freelancer. God bless!

          • Congratulations! That was a huge lightbulb that came on for me about 8 years ago. I could not believe I had never thought of it before! God needs intentional ministers in the marketplace reaching people that may otherwise never set foot in a church. You will have many opportunities to minister to clients and peers that a pastor will never have. Pray He will reveal to you over time how He wants to use your blog and your photography. He will show you open doors you never considered!

      • Karen

        I also read another post about using your gifts and talents.  This is my passion, my favorite work these days, my blog Hope Faith & Life.  I recently learned about a need for Christian Children’s Books- I’d love to give it a try (it’s been my dream for many years.  But my blog is my ministry right now.  Need to keep working on photography to help pay the bills.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

  • You are right Karen! He will not lead you astray!

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