The Most Powerful Word You Need To Use More


We’re all told to be positive.  It is good for you in so many ways. Well F@#& that.

Ha!  Just kidding; I'm one of those annoying eternal optimists!

But there is one word that you positively need to say more in your business.


It is a very powerful word. I realize it comes across as a “negative”.  As women we often say yes to way too much (especially us friendly and unoffending midwesterners).  It feels rude to say no.

Even my assertive self still had this midwestern inclination to say yes to everyone.  Until I started saying no….

When I owned a coffee roaster and cafe we were constantly bombarded by ideas to "help grow our business".   We had numerous areas that brought in revenue; coffee drinks, beans, bakery, made to order food, wholesale, and online sales.  We were pulled in too many directions and didn't have energy to do all the areas well.

We decided to complete our business roadmap and do an in depth look at what our business was and what we wanted it to become.  It brought some interesting things to light.

Coffee was the core of our business.

We offered numerous other items, but when we really looked at it, coffee was the heart.  We had to make some decisions about the other areas of business.

Some decisions were easy.  Alcohol and wholesale dips were done (what?! why were we doing this?).

Others took more analysis, like bakery.  We decided it was important to keep bakery (we made all our own items).  If coffee was the heart, then bakery was its BFF.  When people get coffee they are often looking for a little nibble to go with it.  So that category stayed.

Made to order food was a longer discussion.  It represented 25% of our revenue so it was a big part of our business!   But it was also a huge time sink, we had a lot of waste, staffing challenges and had low margins.

After a lot of thinking and analysis, we decided to get rid of the made to order food category.  We decided that people would still come for coffee and bakery even if we didn’t offer breakfast and lunch.  It was beyond what people expected from a coffee shop.

The effort put into the made to order food took away much of the energy that we should have been putting into coffee.  

We came up with a plan for how to cut out this area, replace that revenue by focusing all our efforts on the heart or our business; coffee.  In the following year, we were crazy focused on coffee; new packaging, branding, increase effort on in wholesale area, more displays to sell beans in the cafe, and better online presence.

That year we more than doubled our coffee bean sales both in our cafe as well as the wholesale department.

By focusing our energy on our core (coffee) we were also able more than replace all the revenue from made to order food, without working more hours.

That growth continued each year.

Coffee beans were much more profitable and easier to scale.  Marketing was also easier. We were always telling the same story; we were a coffee roaster (not a restaurant, deli, bar, etc).

By saying NO to food we were saying YES to coffee.    

As business owners we are often bombarded by ideas, both our own and from other friends and customers.  We frequently hear “have you ever thought of” or “you should do this...”

By saying NO to what others think you should do, you’re really saying YES to what YOU want.   (I know, lots of caps, but this point is really important.)

So how do you know what to say No to?  How do you make sure not to miss some great idea or suggestion?

If you have set your goals and know what your business is, then you'll understand what to say No to.  

What does that mean, “know what your business is”?

There are four areas that you need to answer for yourself and your business:

  1. What is the heart of your business?

The heart of your business is the combination of what your core product or service is and why you offer it.  You should be very cautious about offering items outside of your core products.  Read more about how to define the heart of your business here.

  1.  Who is your customer?

You need to know the characteristics of the people that you are serving.  What do they look like, value, what is their lifestyle?   Those are the people you listen to.  If people outside this group are giving you feedback, it isn’t as important for you to listen to because those aren’t the people you are striving to serve.

  1.  What are your guiding principles?

What are the things that are important to you and your company?  Do you offer the highest quality product, or the cheapest?  Are you committed to being a positive community member?   Is customer service something you’ve put at the top of the list?  How about fun culture?  These guiding principles will help you shape the decisions that you make.

  1.  What are your goals?

Where is it that your business is going in one year and three years?  What are the revenue and profit goals?  When you are making decisions they should all support you getting closer to achieving your goals.

Once you have established who your business is and where it is going, you have a filter through which all ideas can go through.

Do new ideas support both who you are and where you want to go?  If yes, they can go on to be considered.  If not, then you know you don’t need to waste any more time thinking about them.

So much time is wasted considering things that take you away from your business’s heart.  By knowing what your business is, you save yourself time by building in a filter for what ideas are worth considering.  And as the cliche goes, time is money.

Say “No!” to all those ideas that distract from what your business is.  It is one of the most empowering things you can do.

Or if you’re too polite for that, you could modify it to, “No thank you.” Just like I try to teach my kids.