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Learn to say “no” and make “yes” really count

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By Jason Wyatt, Managing Director Marketplacer

One of the most valuable companies on the planet today built its worth by being what many consider a “niche” player.

The vision of Steve Jobs for Apple was not for the Cupertino-based company to make products for everyone, to be all things to all people; it was to make computers and devices for people who “think different”.

When Jobs returned to Apple in late 1997 one of the first things on the drawing board was the iMac. Jobs pitted Apple against the dominance of the PC, with a different kind of computer and even a different operating system. He was taking on the might of competitors like Dell and Microsoft. He was pursuing his vision for a new sort of personal computing.

He was saying no to the status quo and backing his vision. In this niche he had identified for Apple, he saw opportunity.

That niche vision scaled globally, with more and more people being converted to the Apple way of thinking. Jobs didn’t want Apple to be all things to all people; he wanted Apple to be something to somebody.

Business Insider recently asked me, along with some other Australian entrepreneurs, to answer the question “what mistakes should you avoid when growing a young business?”

It made me think about the early days of building Bike Exchange and the opportunities you are presented with as you grow a business.

Why take this path? Should we have taken this opportunity, or headed in that direction?

These are questions that occupy your mind on an almost daily basis as you set about growing your business.

What we learnt fairly early on was that it’s easy to be busy, but what are we being busy for? Where we focusing our efforts and resources? Is it on the right targets?

This is a dilemma that’s very relevant to early stage enterprises, especially those experiencing the first flush of success.

When your startup has suddenly hit its strides and things look like they’re going well, the inclination can be to think, ‘OK, how do we grow this, how do we take advantage of these opportunities to expand?’

The danger here is that opportunities are great, but saying yes to too many will leave you without the resources to seize one properly. Conserve your ammunition, and only commit to what really matters to your business and customers. This requires focus and some hard thought about what your business is really about.

Often it takes courage to say no to an opportunity, especially when it has the potential to bring in revenue (which is important to growing organisations), but long-term focus can quickly be lost in pursuit of short-term gain.

As Steve Jobs once said: “You think focusing is about saying ‘Yes’. No. Focusing is about saying ‘No’. And when you say ‘No’, you piss off people.”

Learn to say no and the opportunities you say yes to will be the ones that really count.


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