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The Toughest Decision You Have to Make ...

The Toughest Decision You Have to Make ...

May 27, 2008

What's the toughest thing about being an entrepreneur?

That's easy. It's deciding what NOT to do. A lot of people are surprised to hear me say that, but I really believe that one of the most difficult things for a business owner to do is say, "No."

You often hear that a leader needs to make the tough decisions about what to do. For me and many of the clients I work with, it's easy to decide to jump on the next opportunity. Many entrepreneurs I know are greedy that way. They never say, "No." I call them "opportunaholics," which I talked about last week.

But the real leaders are those who also decide NOT to do something. They are able to clearly say, "I will do this, but I won't do that!"

That's like music to the ears of the people closest to you, especially when it comes to deciding how to position yourself in the market. Are you going to try to be all things to all people? Of course not.

When should you say, "NO"?

So who are you NOT going to appeal to? Are you going to sell a high-end product or service for a premium price? Or are you going to attract a larger audience with a lower price? It's often easy for owners to determine who they're going to market to. It's more difficult to determine who you're NOT going to market to.

Try it. Make a list of your top 3 markets. Then, make a list of those people within those markets who would not be interested in your products or services.

It's a choice about how you're going to spend your time.

This is where most business owners get stuck. They're afraid if they choose one option, they'll limit themselves too much and miss out on other opportunities. WRONG! The exact opposite is actually true.

The more you can define yourself by what you will NOT do, the better. Be slow to say, "yes" to every opportunity. Consider them carefully. When you do say, "yes" it should be something that you're committed to making work. This way you'll be able to spend your Super Productive Time on the few things that you are going to do, with greater energy and clarity.

So when should you say, "YES"?

So how do you know when to jump on an opportunity or walk away from it? The secret is to have a clear vision of where you want your business to go. Then, when a new opportunity comes up or someone comes to you with an idea, ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. Will this opportunity help me achieve the vision I already have for the company?

2. What will be needed in terms of staffing, resources, expenses, capital investment, etc.

3. How will this opportunity impact you or your current management team?

4. What will you lose if you don't pursue this opportunity?

5. What things will you or your team have to give up to pursue this opportunity? In other words, what won't get done as a result of adding something else to the workload?

The key is to focus your energy - and your employees' energy - on those things that will make the most difference for your company. So the next time, you or someone else come up with a great idea ask yourself those 5 questions before you jump on the next big thing.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,

Jon