Are You Saying ‘No' Enough?
I recently came across this article in INC magazine, taking a closer look at famed business magnate Warren Buffet, and the fact that he attributes his success to saying “no to almost everything.” And that got me thinking — how often in the print industry do we say no?
Too often, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. We say yes to everything that comes along — to jobs, to customers, to vendors — without taking the time to really determine if it’s really the right move. Should you really say yes to the job you have no experience with, and don’t have the right equipment for? Should you say yes to the customer who is always demanding more from you and your staff, but doesn’t want to pay more for it? Should you say yes to the constant opportunities to upgrade your equipment, your software, or your media? While the answer isn’t always no, it shouldn’t always be yes, either.
Here are a few of the “no’s” that Warren Buffet practices, that we can all learn from in our own lives and businesses.
- He says no to paying too much attention to the annual numbers, which can fluctuate wildly if you have a really good — or a really bad — year, but that don’t necessarily mean the business is either growing or failing. Just that it was an unusual year. Instead, paying closer attention to longer-term numbers will give you a better picture of the true health of your business, as well as the jobs and customers that are truly paying off, versus those that are only draining your time, resources, and bottom line.
- He says no to big risks — business in general is all about taking calculated risks, but gambling the company on an untried idea could be the proverbial kiss of death. At the same time, he eschews the concept of “trust but verify,” choosing to take people at their word when he does engage — the lesson to be learned here is to make sure you fully understand the risks when you make big changes in your business, but at a certain point, you have to step back and let the people you trust get the job done.
- He says no to bargains, as well as to “good” deals with “bad” people. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t make it a good deal. Don’t jump into anything — an equipment purchase, a piece of software, a new substrate, even a new supplier — just because they offer you a great deal on the pricing. The odds are good it won’t work out in your favor long term, even if you see a temporary boost to the bottom line for a month or two. On the same vein, just because a deal is a good one, if you aren’t comfortable with the people involved, be willing to walk away. You’ll never regret doing business with good people who share the same business values you do, even if the deal ultimately doesn’t work out as planned. But you will regret doing business with those who don’t share your philosophy and outlook and make everything more difficult, even if ultimately the deal does end up being profitable.
- He says no to worrying about missed opportunities. How many of us have laid awake at night playing the “what if” game? Buffet points out that it isn’t a useful way to expend your time or limited mental resources. You can’t change the past, and he stresses that you can’t beat yourself up for not being able to accurately predict the future. Sure, you might occasionally walk away from something that turns out to be a great opportunity in hindsight, but instead of worry about it, learn what you can and move on. There is always another opportunity down the road.
- He says no to lying to himself. When things aren’t going as planned, it’s human nature to want to look for the source — and just as human to want to absolve ourselves of the blame. But that can create a toxic culture in your business, and make it all but impossible to learn from mistakes. Instead, be fearless when it comes to owning your own mistakes, and make it clear to everyone involved that not only are you taking responsibility, you are actively looking to learn how to not make the same mistake in the future. You will be surprised at how much simply acknowledging your own failures and not lying to yourself will help improve your team’s morale and help your business reach the next level.
And these are just five examples of the things Warren Buffet says “no” to that we can learn from. As you evaluate your business and future, take the time to step back and really think about everything you’re currently saying “yes” to — and how many are really serving you or your business long term.
Toni McQuilken is the senior editor for the printing and packaging group.