Learning to say no is tough for most entrepreneurs. Let’s face it, we are entrepreneurs because we are willing to take a risk and do things that most other people won’t do.  When people understand that we are risk takers and will work our ass off to achieve our dream, suddenly we begin to attract more and more opportunities. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has a brilliant idea and if you haven’t yet, you’re going to start attracting people who need someone fearless to drive their dream.  Usually most of the ideas will be easy to say no to. But not always.

What happens when a close friend of family member presents an opportunity that while not exactly in alignment of what you’re building, seems like it has a ton of potential. Your head starts to spin with the business plan and how you’re going to implement the idea.  Before change direction and start to work on their dream, take a minute to step back and look at your goals.

It’s OK to say no.

Saying no doesn’t mean you don’t support the person or the idea. It doesn’t meant that you don’t think it’s a good idea.  It simply means that the new idea isn’t in alignment with your current goals and plans. How do you decide what ideas have merit and are worth your energy and what aren’t?  A few simple steps can help you make a sound decision, but first make sure you’re thinking with a clear head.

1. Pull out your goals, both short term and long term – the goals you set way before you were exposed to his earth shattering idea – and see if the new idea allows you to better achieve your goals.  There are two options, it either helps further your goals, or it hinders them. There is no middle ground. At a minimum it will take time from you and your team when you’re not delivering on your goals.
2. Clearly evaluate the new idea, and determine is it really a viable business? And more importantly, are you the right person to start it up? Talk to your peers and mentors and get honest feedback.
3. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t feel guilted into doing it. There is nothing wrong with telling someone it’s a great idea, but just not what you’re focused on right now.  If you need to deliver the message softer, you can offer to introduce them to other entrepreneurs who may be in a better place to implement their great idea.

Never feel like you don’t have a choice. Not being able to say no and taking on every new idea and potential partner will ensure you aren’t able to deliver on your mission.

Once you get more comfortable saying no to others – the real challenge comes. How do you say no to yourself? What do you think?

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