Say “no” to your employees
The line between entrepreneur and psychologist can sometimes get really thin (in my case it did!). This is probably the most difficult and exhausting aspect to manage. Who knows if it’s my background in psychology, but many times, I found myself involved in my employees’ problems, or even their requests for money.
Employees will always ask more of you, they always expect more recognition, money, support… And it is only human to want to answer their call. But you cannot afford it, you need to protect yourself and create a respectful distance with your employees. What are the risks? Losing money, creating an unhealthy familiarity between you and your employees, losing your credibility, and ultimately, endangering your business. I have made all the possible mistakes one can make – I’ll spare you the details, but most of all, I now understand that your most important employee is, well, yourself. If you don’t put yourself first, prioritizing your physical, emotional and financial health, no one will do it for you. Make sure to take care of yourself before trying to please others, always. This is not being selfish, this is common sense, and it took me years to figure that out.
Your employees are not aware of your economic reality. Faced with a request for a pay raise, it is always difficult to say: “I’m sorry, I simply can’t afford to paying you an extra $10K a year”. You cannot say this to your employees, let alone the collaborators who are soliciting you for investments. Indeed, you risk spreading the rumor that you don’t have good financial health, which can ultimately have repercussions with the stakeholders of your company. We must learn how to respond to solicitations with tact, and especially learn how to say “no”, at the risk of impacting the relationship.
Do they know that you have not been paid (or very little) for 2, 3 or even 5 years? By the way, maybe this is of little or no importance to them, but it is up to you to protect your assets to eventually win back what was lost financially and restore YOUR own financial health before that of others. If entrepreneur’s financial health is good, then that means the company is on the right track for continued success.
Say “no” to your clients
The other people you will inevitably disappoint are your customers. In a society where expectations are more and more specific, it is becoming more and more difficult to satisfy everyone.
Customers want food that is organic, local, gluten-free, sulphite-free, without sweeteners, without peanuts, without sugars, or made to be vegan, paleo, keto, good for the environment… the requirements are huge, and when you are a small company, with a small team and modest finances, it is impossible to handle them all. Customers have no idea of the cost and the organization required to obtain certifications and, to come up with products at competitive prices despite everything.
You will need to choose a guideline and values for which you will make no compromises. You will then have to share this vision to answer the requests of your customers but avoid modifying it to meet their expectations. If you make the mistake of wanting to address them all, you will lose time, money, your identity, and ultimately, customers.
Putting forward pointed arguments for products such as gluten-free or vegan food, for example, can discourage “traditional” customers from buying your products, thinking “it’s not a product for me, it’s only for someone with a special diet” … By satisfying one corner of the market, you risk losing another.
How to say “no”?
To be able to say “no”, keep your relationships intact (or almost intact), and remain credible, you must be strong, not only personally, but also in order to respect, and preserve the values and goals that drive your company. You must have a clear vision of your identity, the direction you want to take, and the clients you have chosen to target.
It will then be easier for you to say: “no, it’s not compatible with my vision”, or “no, it’s not compatible with the development planning of my company”. We always accept a “no” when it is firm and supported.
That’s the reality of business: both the family and the employees, the metor, or the caring advisor will, at one point or another, put their interests before yours. You want to be able to count on them, but in the end, you may be disappointed to see the motivation for personal gain behind the kindness they show to you. Once again, it is up to you to look after your own interests and those of your company – I can never repeat it often enough!
Finally, entering the game of justification is not always healthy. We must also learn to say “no” without sharing the reason, stay strong in the face of reactions and assume our decisions. It is always helpful to consider external advice, but ultimately, you will always be the only one to bear the consequences. This is the harsh reality of entrepreneurship: making decisions, alone, and paying for them, no matter what. Because in the end, all these employees and associates may have taken a different path, but, as for me, I am still there… watching over La Fourmi Bionique.