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just say no

Just Say No

As the mother of a rambunctious toddler, I have had to tell Zola “no” on more than one occasion. Even the most perfect of children has to hear that word, usually for their own protection.

I’ve also had to tell a potential client “no.” And then I wonder if I was crazy for turning down an opportunity to gain new business. I’ve yet to become independently wealthy, so, like any growing business, Database Sherpa needs new clients to survive and thrive.

Yet I have come to realize that saying “no” is as important as saying “yes,” and here’s why. At Database Sherpa we believe that the key to clients understanding their database is to be actively involvement in its creation. By rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty (figuratively, of course, unless you count messy toner cartridges), clients will learn more about the nitty-gritty of their database. Why is this important? By digging into their data with us, clients will have a greater understanding of the components of a successful database, and will be able to modify and expand it with very little help or guidance. This is one of the guiding principles of Database Sherpa: Walking with a client, then letting them continue their journey on their own.

On two separate occasions, a potential client has asked for our help—but told us that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to work along side us when creating their database. Instead, they wanted me to do their work, reducing me from a Sherpa to a kuli (in Hindi or a porter) carrying their luggage.

Did I deviate from my principles? No. In the kindest and gentlest ways, I said I wouldn’t be able to help them at this time, but if they found that their needs have changed and that they want to delve deeper into their data, to give me a call.

Do I need new clients? Of course, but not to the point of sacrificing my values. I know that potential clients who are willing to walk with me are out there. I know that this business will grow organically, and I know that word-of-mouth from happy clients, rather than compromise will make that happen.

Will I continue to say “no”?

Yes.

3 Comments

  1. Rob Vander Sloot

    4 years ago  

    There’s also a pretty strong business case for sticking to your principals. I expect that your process is based not only on how you prefer to work, but also because it leads to a better result. You mentioned that if they walk the path with you, they will be more capable of performing their own maintenance (or at least with minimal help). In addition to that, the resulting structure and interfaces will be easier to maintain because there will no doubt be tweaks and changes made throughout the project due to your client’s improved understanding of the problem.

    The success of Atomic Object is evidence of this. Eight years ago, they were on the bleeding edge of Agile Software Development processes as executed by a contracting firm. As they were still in the building stages of the company, they turned down a number of potential clients because those clients were unwilling to be actively involved throughout the project. Atomic’s reasoning wasn’t just that they were unwilling to modify their process for a client, but they knew that compromising on their process greatly increased the chances of failure. And if the project does fail, the client will blame the contractor, they won’t recognize that it may be due to the process that they imposed.

    Stay with it, Ashima. I wish you all the best.

  2. Ashima Saigal

    4 years ago  

    Rob,

    Thanks much for your support. I really appreciate the comments and yes, I think that there is a strong business case for sticking to principles that have created the business and will drive its success.

    Wishing you much peace,

    Ashima

  3. Keeter Consulting

    4 years ago  

    Saying no to new business is one of the hardest things to do as a small business, for all of the obvious reasons.

    But to your point, Ashima, I agree completely. Sometimes your business simply can’t adequately meet the needs/expectations of the customer, and it’s advisable to say now. Other times, it’s apparent that the customer can’t/won’t have the type of working relationship necessary to accomplish the shared goal. Still other times, the business is not one that you will want your own to be associated with. An obvious example would be a video production company that primarily worked with children’s videos being approached to produce a gory, shoot-em-up movie. The short term profits from the venture would result in long-term damage to the company image.

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