The Power of ‘No’
We’ve been thinking a lot about the word ‘no’ and its intrinsic power. Its counterparts, ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ are certainly on trend. They live in the happy, positive space we are always hungry for the world to adopt. A world where good change is good and we all get along and share. That world rejects ‘no’ like a leper in a public swimming pool.
‘No’ is not wishy-washy. It is clear and definitive. It takes a lot of courage and forethought to declare it in the face of powerful headwinds pushing the ever-present need for change agendas.
Here is what we are going on about.
What if we decided to open say, a restaurant. Family, pizza fare. But we said no to credit cards, reservations, changing the menu, delivery or pick up, to healthful options, outdoor tables, expanding space, a new name, new decor, or even advertising. In fact, what if we said ‘no’ to every new idea or suggestion that came along. We change nothing. We literally say no to everything.
We’re sitting in a booth at a restaurant in Lincoln Park, Chicago. It’s 4pm on Monday. Even though we have eaten here forever and are practically neighbors, we waited an hour and a half to get in and quite happily so. This restaurant has not changed a bit in any way in 40 years. The food is the same, just as good as it always is and people line up for hours to get in even at mid-afternoon on a Monday.
Well, we are not exactly right they did do one thing new and added an ATM in their packed little foyer for those of us who inevitably forget it’s cash only.
The point is that despite all the changes and innovations available for restaurants this place decided to say ‘no’ for some 40 years to all of them and here we are just happy to wait an hour or more to get in.
Being smart digital types we once asked one of the owners would they allow reservations on the Internet. He said no. And that was it.
A wonderful family-owned client turned their 75-year old company over to the nephew. He promptly took over the CEO reins and set about to say ‘no’ to the many different businesses they were in. Many were not profitable nor had much chance to be. The simplified, focused company is now minting money and should do so for a long time to come.
Another with a cherished 130-year history offered dozens and dozens of varieties of many types. Not only was there the constant confusion over naming and identification but even internally each variety had a different name or description. As hard as it was for them they made the decision to not keep confusing
Harley Davidson Dealers said no to pink satin pillows. Hardly the right brand statement. And from what we have been told, Apple’s Steve Jobs used the little word a lot.
No, of course, we are not advocating that the world suddenly says no to change and innovation. Nor are we advocating yes to everything. But what we are eluding to is that there is definitely a place for no and if used is an incredibly powerful tool.
And here is why.
We firmly believe that the road to high success is paved with little gold bricks with one word on them. FOCUS.
If a company, a country, a community, a brand could identify the one factor that will drive success for them and they focus religiously on it then good things will happen.
Commit to that one factor (product, customer type, geography, etc.) stay at it until you are world class and really good things will happen for a long time.
The one clear way to keep focused is to be prepared to say ‘no’ to anything that will blur, complicate, or dilute that focus. A very difficult task when all the shiny new and potentially prosperous things are constantly being thrown at you.
The art of focus and science of no are big with us. What do you think?
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.