“When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself.”
– James Altucher, The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness

There’s a lot of power behind the word no.
There is a stigma associated with it as well.

In the startup phase, most entrepreneurs/small business owners don’t say no. They take on work that may be outside their wheelhouse or outside their core area of expertise. They take on clients with whom they do not fit. Or work that they won’t make any profit on (all in the name of past performance). They fear being ‘too exclusive’ that they stretch themselves too thin, trading one extreme for another.

Instead of referring the work to another resource, entrepreneurs/small business owners will rationalize taking it on. Let’s face it, we all need to earn a living. Especially when you first start off bootstrapping the organization. But it’s the rationalization and the taking of work outside of your core area that will potentially tank you financially, tap your energy and more importantly tarnish your reputation. Reputation is important no matter what stage you are in, but it can be the difference between the hockey curve growth and the shuttering of the doors during the first few years.

Every business owner has their own horror story of the project or client with whom they just couldn’t win. Something they spent all their time on, with little (or no) success. It’s natural. But those that have too many of these stories are doomed.

At some point (the earlier, the better), it is necessary to get to the point where you can say no. You can identify opportunities that just aren’t for you. That your company is not a fit. There is power in saying no. It means that you value your time, your reputation and your colleagues. Saying no doesn’t mean that you won’t take risks. It means that you are thoughtful in those risks that you do take on.

Be known for the work you win, not the opportunities you might have missed.