It's ok to say no!

Last week an entrepreneur friend of mine (let’s call her Kate for the purposes of this post) got in touch with me for some advice. Kate was in a dialogue with a friend who wanted to come on board and work with her. In principle Kate really wanted to work with her as she felt she had the right qualities and would be a great asset to the new business. It all sounded great until the friend put in writing what her requests were in terms of remuneration and package – which appeared quite demanding at first glance for a start-up with no funding yet! Because Kate had agreed in principle to working together, she needed to have a very direct conversation without damaging the relationship and without giving away too much (she was asking for equity and a rather large fee).

I spoke to Kate at length about how she mustn’t forget that she is in the driving seat here. It is her business and she should not feel pressured into giving away equity or intellectual property until she was absolutely sure that they could work well together and that this individual could prove she could add value. I suggested that she agree to a conversation about equity further down the line and be strong about not offering it up straight away. Giving away equity is one of the last things you should do as if the relationship breaks down for whatever reason it is very hard to get rid of a shareholder. She was worried about upsetting the friend but I said that if she wasn’t prepared to work on your terms then perhaps she wasn’t the right person. It is easy to jump into things when you’re desperate for support and you can’t see where else you could get that from, but it is better to walk away and feel confident about the decision you’ve made than regret it. If it is meant to be then there should always be a way to come to an agreement that suits both parties.

If you’re struggling and not sure how to have a tricky conversation – whether it is with your boss or a supplier or a customer, then always remember that you are the one in control of your decisions. It is ok to say no (politely!), as long as you say it with conviction and you are clear and concise about the reasons why you have to say no. It is all about compromise and finding a middle ground – there should be a way to negotiate to a middle ground where you’re both happy.

Joy Burnford