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saying no in business

Just say “NO.” How to build your business by bowing out gracefully.

BNBranding logoSaying no in business is one of the most difficult yet liberating things you can do. You might want to practice at home, with your kids.

The most effective managers and executives say no a lot.

For instance, they politely decline to pursue business that doesn’t fit their strategic objectives. They say no to employees who try to hijack their time. They don’t tolerate overblown financial projections and long, drawn-out presentations. They say no to new initiatives that don’t fit the brand or the corporate culture.

They even say no to their bosses and to their best clients sometimes.

The typical small-business owner, on the other hand, says yes, yes, yes to anything that comes along. Turning down work is just not part of the program. So in an effort to grow the business and put food on the table, they make a habit of appeasing people. 

Say no to build your business BNBranding“Sure, we can do that.”  Yes, we can do that too.”

It’s a particularly common problem in professional service firms. Because after all, it IS a service business. We serve our clients. We aim to please.

An overly agreeable approach isn’t just a lack of courage. It’s often symptomatic of two glaring managerial shortcomings: little or no strategic thinking and a brand that’s not very focused or well defined.

Defining a Brand Strategy means choosing a specialty, setting specific goals, and turning away business that doesn’t fit with your core brand values. If you don’t say no in business, you’ll never have an iconic brand.

The clarity that comes from a well-defined, well written brand strategy makes it much easier to say no when you really need to.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 the company was, in his own words, “in deep shit.” They had at least 13 new initiatives and product ideas but no direction. No strategic focus. No “gravitational pull,” as he put it.

Jobs killed all but two of the initiatives. One was the iMac and the other was the G4. By saying no, he set the company in a specific, definable direction that’s still paying off today.

BNBranding's brand insight blog“Companies sometimes forget who they are.” Jobs once said. “Fortunately, we woke up. And now we’re on a really good track. It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” *

Say no in business to 1,000 things — in order to get one thing really right.

Peter Drucker believes the only people who truly get anything done are monomaniacs – people who are intensely focused on one thing at a time. “The more you take on, the greater chance you will lose effectiveness in all aspects of your life.”

Best-selling author Ken Blanchard, (The One-Minute Manager, Gung Ho) says without clear goals you will quickly be a victim of too many commitments. “You will have no framework in which to make decisions about where you should or shouldn’t focus your energy.”

So I guess modern day multi-tasking isn’t the shortest route to success.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”

As a Creative Director I say no a lot. Clients often make impossible requests at the 11th hour or float their own “creative” ideas in early strategy meetings. Sometimes, I swear, they’re just trying to get a rise outta me. Deep down they know their ideas are lame, but they want to see how I handle it.

Here are some good things that come from saying no in business:

• You have more opportunities to say yes to the right customers, at the right time. You can pick your battles. 

• You have more time to focus on more important tasks, like long-term planning, strategic thinking and branding.

• Your operation will become more streamlined and efficient. 

• You’ll have a better sense of balance in life — between work, home and play.

• Saying “no” expresses how you really feel. You’re not hiding anything, and you’re taking responsibility for your own feelings. It’s more authentic than a forced “yes.” 

• Saying no actually increases your value in the market niche you’ve choosen.

truth in advertising BNBranding

At BNBranding one of the goals of our new business development effort is to say no more often. And not just to accounts that are too small, but also to businesses owners, marketing managers and entrepreneurs who might pay well, but don’t share our core values.

As the old saying goes, “values mean nothing in business until they cost you money.”

We need more work, but not just any work. Work that we’re proud to show off.

We need clients, but not just any clients. We need clients who we’re genuinely happy to help, and are honestly grateful for it.

Fast Company magazine ran a great article about Jim Wier, the CEO of Snapper lawn mowers. He said no in business. In fact, he said no to Walmart and gave up tens of millions of dollars in annual sales with one visit to Arkansas. But he was adamant that selling Snapper mowers through Walmart stores was incompatible with their strategy and their brand.

Now that’s courage. And focus.

Most large companies with a well-respected brand like Snapper would be tempted to launch a line extension strategy to accommodate Walmart. Just produce a cheaper mower overseas and slap the Snapper name on it. But Wier knew that would just dilute the brand and confuse people.

saying no in businessLike when Subway recently announced they’d be test marketing pizzas. How does that fit with their “eat fresh” healthy fast food strategy? Can you see Jared, the Subway spokesperson, losing 60 pounds while eating pizza?  I don’t think so.

Someone should have stepped up and said no to that idea.

For more on establishing a clear brand strategy, try this post.

If you need some help establishing a clear marketing strategy, and executing it, give us a call. We might say no, but we might not. 541-815-0075.

* The Steve Jobs story is from “The Perfect Pitcth” by Jon Steele.  BNBranding  branding services, advertising agency marketing management. in Bend, Oregon.

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Getting to the point for better PowerPoint Presentations

BNBranding logoEvery year at the Mac Expo, Steve Jobs used to unveil some fantastic new, game-changing technology from Apple. His presentations were always outstanding, both for the content and for entertainment value.

macbook_air_introFor instance, when he introduced the MacBook air back in 2009, he didn’t just talk about the specs of the new product, he demonstrated its thinness by pulling thin new laptop out of a 9×12 manilla envelope.

That’s great showmanship. And salesmanship.

It wasn’t just passion and natural charisma that made Jobs an effective communicator. It was his ability to convey ideas in simple, concise ways. He used honest demonstrations. Stories. Theater. And yes, some Hollywood special effects.

Not Powerpoint. PowerPoint is the antithesis Apple, the enemy of innovation and the world’s biggest communication crutch.

If you really want better Powerpoint presentations, just go without it!

Some time ago I attended a two-day branding conference down in Austin, Texas. The keynote speaker was a wise old pro who speaks and teaches professionally all across the country. He had an assistant with him, as well as tech support from the conference facility staff.

It was a disaster. Three hours into it and he was still fumbling around with his computer…

Lights on. Lights off. Sound’s way too loud. Sound’s not on. Sound’s out of sync. Slides are out of order. Video won’t play. How many times do we have to look at this guy’s desktop?

For him, a better Powerpoint Presentation would have meant no computer at all.

But to be fair, even if the computer had behaved itself his Powerpoint Presentation still would have fallen flat. Because his ideas were totally scattered. His slides were loaded with text that he read verbatim. And his speech wasn’t really a speech at all.

Thank God, I’m not a middle manager in a big corporation where I’d have to endure daily doses of that crap. Powerpoint, as it’s commonly employed, is a terrible form of communication.

In “The Perfect Pitch,” Jon Steele says, “most presenters start with the slides, and then treat what they are going to say simply as an exercise in linkage. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the presenter is reduced to a supporting role. To all presenters, I say this: YOU are the presentation.”

That’s easy to say if you’re as big as Steve Jobs. But you don’t have to be famous to put on a gripping and persuasive Powerpoint presentation. You just have to change the process and forget about Powerpoint until you’re three-quarters of the way through.

If you want to deliver better powerpoint presentations, think of yourself as a storyteller, not a presenter.

better powerpoint presentations from BNBrandingI’m talking about the old-fashioned, verbal tradition of story telling. Stories are way more compelling than slides. No matter how boring the topic may seem, there’s always a story buried in there somewhere.

So tell the story. Write it down. Flesh it out and practice it before you ever open Powerpoint.

Here’s another way to look at: Concentrate first on how you sound and what you say, then use the software to create visual support for your main verbal points. Not the other way around.

You’ll be amazed how focused your message becomes.

The first rule of communicating is to eliminate confusion.

Make things clear! When you throw a bunch of data up on a slide, you’re not making things more clear, you’re just adding confusion.

AED1345115281_463_work_work_head_image_eepv1aBack in the day, before PowerPoint was ever conceived, corporate presentations were done with slide projectors. You had to send out for slides, way ahead of time!

So you were forced to think long and hard about the design and content of each and every slide.

You had to plan the flow of the presentation. You had to know the most important points and you were forced to boil it down until there was absolutely nothing else left. Then you’d cover the rest of the detials in your speech.

We were forced to be good speakers.

Powerpoint makes it too easy to add slides and overwhelm people with charts and graphs. The technological tool has become a crutch that hobbles great communication. Got an idea? Just jump right into PowerPoint and start creating slides.

Another unfortunate side effect of PowerPoint is lousy, truncated speaking. People think they have to limit their words to fit the slides. And what they. End up with. Is choppy. Confusing. Information. That doesn’t. Flow. Or Communicate. Much of anything.

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If you write the script first and then use PowerPoint slides as visual aids to drive home the main points, you won’t have that problem. You’ll be speaking from a coherent, human, story-based script, not reading random bullet points right off the slides.

The difference is dramatic.

I suspect that much of the problem stems from the fear of public speaking. And that’s understandable. People with that fear like to hide behind the PowerPoint slides. They can become almost invisible.  But that’s not how you’re going to make a sale, further your career or build a successful business. You have to suck it up, and put yourself out there.

Truth is, if you want to improve your presentations you’re going to have to get comfortable with public speaking.

Join Toastmasters. Watch some YouTube videos and see how the pros do it. Find a good mentor… Salespeople are usually the best at it, so if there’s someone really good at your company offer to be an audience as they practice. Watch, listen, and learn. And forget about mastering all the technical bells and whistles of PowerPoint. That will just distract you from the main objective.

So here’s the final word for better Powerpoint presentations:

If you want people to remember your words, translate them into a picture. Put the picture up on the screen, then speak the words.

Don’t put the written words up there, just to be repeated from your trembling lips. It’s redundant. It’s boring. And it’s unimaginative. Words up on the screen do not make great visual aids.

Steve Jobs didn’t put the words “thinest laptop on the market” up on the screen. He showed us. He demonstrated how thin it was while he talked about the details.

That’s how it’s supposed to be done.

If you need help writing better Powerpoint presentations, give me a call at BNBranding. 541-815-0075.
If you want more on how to be more clear and concise in all your marketing communications, try this post.