Turning Work Away

One of the natural barriers we encounter as entrepreneurs and small businesses is whether to accept certain new work or new clients. Perhaps there is not a good fit. Perhaps your work schedule is stacked. Lately, I’ve met several service based entrepreneurs who are in the habit of turning away work when they feel their plate is too full.

Since most business owners are looking for more work, not less, the idea of turning away perfectly good business should be considered very carefully. Not only is declining good work a potentially poor idea, it’s one way to stunt your growth. Instead one should review very carefully whether they can do the work, engage people to do the work, or make a qualified referral that could result in other reciprocal prospective work for you.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.” Kevin Stirtz

Of course, there can be sensible reasons to turn away business. I advise people to articulate their professional nichedeveloping your unique value proposition and target market. Of course, one should do that in the context of the resources you have to engage and service that business. While it makes sense to hustle in the early years and stretch to find your niche, ultimately it pays to be clear about what you do and who you do it for. Here are some good reasons to turn away work: 

  • Your expertise and interest don’t lend themselves well to the work
  • You probably won’t be the best person for the job
  • You can’t work within the constraints of the job
  • You just don’t want to work with that particular client

Turning away work for these reasons makes sense and I actually encourage it. In these cases you may want to think about developing a referral list of trusted service providers to whom you can send the client. The referral will create goodwill not only with the referee but also with the client, who will likely appreciate that you didn’t try to take on more than you can handle, and may recommend you for more suitable work in the future.

“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust."Bob Burg

But when I see small business owners leaving good business on the table, it boggles my mind. Bad reasons for turning away work include feeling overloaded, not having appropriate infrastructure, or feeling intimidated by the work. Here’s how to say yes to new business: 

Get More Staff

If you turn down business because you don’t have enough staff, hire more staff. If I had a dollar for every business owner who told us they didn’t have time to hire and train good help, we’d have ourselves a nice lunch. The truth is, if you can’t find the time to train new staff, then odds are good you’re not interested in growth. If you’re not sure you can maintain enough workload for another employee then consider bringing on help in the form of part-time staff or contractors.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of believing that every client needs their work done by you. If you train someone, then they can do the job on for you while you supervise, get paid and solidify a client relationship that will pay you for years to come.

“You don’t build a business, you build people, and then people build the business.”Zig Ziglar

Get Your House In Order

Investing the time in creating systems and infrastructure is the only way to grow a business. Scalability is only an option if you create the time to deliberately add the needed resources.

Get Over Yourself

There is a difference between taking on work outside of your expertise and stretching yourselfto learn new skills. I encourage you to do the math on stretching outside your experience zone when it comes to new work. Ask yourself if a little discomfort, and a learning curve, could give you some new expertise you can turn around and sell in the future.

Staying hungry and stretching your comfort levels are probably among the reasons you started your business – so put them to good use growing your business. Trod carefully when you consider engaging new clients, doing the work and then when to turn the work away. Tactical and informed growth should be your first consideration. It’s ensures you are Keeping Life Current.

Steve Bentley is the SBCN Canada Community Mentor and can be reached at steve@NorthernRiverFinancial.ca