The Power of NO
It's such a simple, one syllable, word, and yet it wields infinite power. Saying "No" is something we are conditioned to avoid as business owners, but from a personal perspective, learning to say "No" was a powerful tool for growth and change. It helped me to build my business to become what it is today.
A World of Yes
There was a time, a time before No became a part of my business vocabulary. In fact there was a time when everything, EVERYTHING was YES.
"Can I order 3 dozen cupcakes for tomorrow morning"?"Yes""Can I get a 3 tier cake for under $100"?"Yes""Can I get a Lion King cake with all the bells and whistles, matching cupcakes with toppers and cake pops for $3 a serving"?"Sure, yes, why not..."
In fact, yes was my business mantra. Yes meant business, yes meant opportunities to make cake, yes meant I was busy! Business was good -the problem was- I was making cake the wrong way. I was setting myself up for failure. I was allowing customers to dictate how I should do business.
I Had No Control
The bigger issue perhaps, was that I thought I did have control. I thought this was what I wanted and I thought I was happy. To me, success meant making cakes; any cakes. The fact that I had a full calendar meant I must be doing something right. The fact I was making a meager profit was a consequence of me doing something I loved.
I justified cruddy wages, I justified failure to be profitable with excuse after excuse.
"I am being paid to do my hobby, that's all I want."
"At least I am not making a loss."
"It doesn't matter that I am not making money, this makes me happy and others happy."
However after a while I started to realize something. I wasn't making the cakes I dream of making. I wasn't pursuing my "passion" or my "hobby" because I was stuck knocking up 50 cupcakes for someone's birthday party. I was sitting around waiting for a customer to order that dream cake, so that I would have an opportunity to make it; and when those dream cake orders did come through the door. My excitement overruled my business sense and I ended up giving away good work for nothing. I was so blinded by the joy of making an elegant cake, that I said yes with my heart, not thinking of the financial implications to my business.
My Resentment Swallowed my Passion
Besides not being profitable, I was just truly stuck in a caking rut. I was stuck at a price point that I didn't know a way out of, and worse still, I didn't know how to fix it.
I wanted to make beautiful wedding cakes, High-end custom creations. Only I didn't know how. I was stuck making birthday cakes and smash cakes, and cupcakes; and even though I loved baking and seeing the smiles and enjoying being a part of people's lives through cake. It wasn't my dream.
It was out of frustration and exasperation that I started saying NO.
"Can I order a 3 tier cake?""'Yes, my minimum serving fee is $8 per serving"."Oh, that's too much for me, can you do it for $4 per serving, the cake lady down the road can do it for $3, will you honor that price if I pay cash upfront?""No, sorry, my prices reflect the quality of my workmanship and are non-negotiable.""Okay, thank you".
Okay, so the exchange was uncomfortable for me, in fact I remember my heart was beating out of my chest. I was sweating, hanging onto their response like it could mean life or death. Then when they said no and walked away, I dealt with fear and panic, and I dealt with low self-esteem and uncertainty. Yes, they walked away and I lost their business, but what was I gaining in saying yes? What would I gain in compromising my value? Did I ruin their day? No. Did they probably just go ahead and book the $3 cake lady down the street? Yes.
I would have gained a picture for my portfolio, I may have gained her future business on more cut-price cakes.
I would have lost my profit margin, I would have worked on a cake for nothing.
Facing those Cake Demons
I realized my reaction to being turned away meant I had some demons to face. I needed to toughen up. I needed to get used to facing rejection and not let my irrational fear of a faceless person behind a computer screen ruin my entire weekend. I needed to stop letting the fear of upsetting someone dictate my business practices.
At this point in my career, I think I was at an all time low. I was so fed up, fed up of making cakes that I no longer had a passion for, fed up of spending $30 to make $35. I was really on the verge of giving up completely when saying No took it's affects.
No certainly heralded change: I started losing business, in fact I hardly had an order; maybe this was a big mistake, maybe people will only pay bottom-dollar for custom cakes, maybe I am kidding myself.
But then something happened and it gave me clarity, it gave me perspective and it gave me time to formulate a NEW business plan.
A bride had contacted me for a quote, I priced her design but she turned me down, which at this point I was starting to become accustomed to, but then a month later she returned and with a new perspective, she agreed to the price. My initial NO had resulted in a YES, but a YES on my terms. I had a cake order in the hundreds, not the tens, this was new territory and on top of that, it was a beautiful cake.
No had empowered me.
In fact, no led to new growth, no led to new cakes, new clients, a new style, new interest, a new audience, and so much more.
No led to me discovering something about myself, about how business works and about the value of self worth!
No was the first step of many steps that led to incredible change.