Clare Scott: When to say “no” to new work

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In today’s competitive marketplace, most businesses expend considerable time and effort on attracting new business. Turning away work might therefore seem a little disingenuous. So when does it make sense to say no? Consider the scenarios below:
Poor fit
There’s a vague correlation between what they want and what you do – but fulfilling the work will involve a steep learning curve on your part and perhaps investment in additional resources.
Caveat: Consider the potential for similar requests in the future. If the enquiry is indicative of a market trend, it might be worth the extra investment now.
No capacity
The perfect project comes along and you don’t have the capacity to fulfil it. Dilemma. Tempting though it is, don’t compromise existing client relationships or service standards by biting off more than you can chew.
Caveat: If this happens regularly, aim to create a strong network of sub-contractors, or consider expansion.
Competitor clash
You’d love to help – but you’re already helping the competition. The decision to decline depends largely on your line of work. Again, don’t jeopardise existing relationships for the sake of a one-off. Integrity is everything.
Caveat: No-one knows what might happen in the future. Existing client relationships falter. Companies are swallowed up by their competition. Decline with grace. Recommend another source of help if you can. You’ll be remembered for your courtesy.
Reputational rumours
Your potential client gets a bad rap for their business conduct or payment history. You have a sense of discomfort about dealing with them.
Caveat: Ensure the rumours have solid foundations. Do the warnings come from trusted sources, or from those with vested interests? If you do go ahead, ensure your contractual arrangements are watertight.
The last word…
Always take the time to respond to an enquiry – even if you’re turning the work away. I had a one out of three response rate to a recent request for assistance. The radio silence (despite chasing) left a poor impression of the two organisations in question. The moral of the story? Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.
Clare Scott is a Communications Consultant and founder of CJS Communication & Marketing


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