Knowing When to Say No
Three and a half years ago when I started bWEST I took on just about any project that came my way – and every project I got I thought could be my last (Brent Hammond helped me fix that). As a new business my primary concern was growth and survival. There’s a little happy dance I would do every time I got a new project, usually in front of my wife as a celebration. I stopped doing the happy dance after about a year, although I did one just the other day, not for a new client but something else that I can’t tell you about just yet.
That first year I did LOTS of networking and attended a lot of events. I had no idea how many business functions there were every week in Victoria. I also put on more than 30 Social Media Workshops and Seminars, mostly free of charge for a variety of organizations as a means of building awareness and making a name for myself. As a result I met a lot of people, made some valuable contacts and generated enough business to keep me busy. However, in taking on ALL the jobs that came my way I did get burned a couple of times, for different reasons. That helped me to reassess my plans for the next year and develop a set of guidelines for evaluating new business opportunities. These guidelines have served me well the last few years. Here they are:
Trust Your Gut
We all have that inner barometer, that visceral emotion we call the ‘gut feeling’ or our ‘spidey senses‘ that warns us when something isn’t quite right. Depending on the situation it can be very subtle or red flags may be popping up everywhere. It’s when those signals are subtle that they’re harder to listen to, especially if it’s a large project. This is the guideline I used most often, but I still get it wrong occasionally.
It’s Not a Core Competency
This is really a fancy way of saying, it’s something we don’t really do. A couple of years ago I was working with a fairly large client doing all the stuff I’m really good at; social media strategy, email marketing and digital analytics. Then they asked me to do something I hadn’t done before – Google Adwords training. Now, I have built very effective adword campaigns and I’m an excellent social media trainer, but as it turns out I’m not that great a training someone to use Google Adwords.
When Your Plate is Full
This is a hard one, especially if it’s an interesting project or a strategically important client. It’s always possible to pull in additional resources to get a job done, however it’s more important for me to do great work and maintain our reputation. I used to be be okay with taking on work even if it meant working longer hours and going seven days a week. I’m no longer interested in seeing if I can work effectively on 5 hours of sleep – I can’t, and the business overall will suffer if I try.
When You’re Not in Control
In the first year a large percentage of my work came from agencies and larger web development companies, which is great – mostly. The projects are often rewarding as it involves working with others and can be challenging. The times when that is not the case is when we’re not in direct contact with the end client and hence don’t have all the information or get direct feedback. Now I always get at least a verbal agreement at the outset that we are well briefed and get good/complete feedback.
Following these guidelines has served me well the last few years. Now that we’re a team of three we have more resources and specialties to tap into however these tips still apply.
How about you – under what circumstances do you decide to decline new business?