The entrepreneurial spirit can spring from many different sources.

- Phil Coop

Being an entrepreneur is a way of life, a way of approaching opportunities and challenges, and seeing the potential in all situations.

- Mary McDonald

Entrepreneurship is the foundation of the American business world.

- Michael J. Bruns
31Aug 2017


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By Society of Entrepreneurs Member Dr. Mary C. McDonald published in The Daily News on 4/28/2016

Wise decision-making is a core function of leadership. Your job as a leader is to keep the main thing, the main thing. How do you achieve that goal knowing that there are times when everything seems like a good idea, everything seems important, achievable, a good decision.

People come to you with their ideas, their visions, their sales pitches pulling you in the direction of what is in the best interest of what they want. What do you do? If you’re a wise leader, you practice the art of saying “no.”

It’s complicated. Just saying no is not as easy as it sounds. A leader comes prepared with strategic thinking skills that lead to a successful “no”, while continuing to keep the focus on the “yes” to the things that are most important. A strategic “no” determines the clarity of what you can do. Steve Jobs knew why when he said, “It come from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track, or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it is only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

A successful leader knows how to manage current commitments, obligations, and expectations, while always keeping an entrepreneurial eye open for new opportunities. The leader is skilled at focusing on the main thing by saying no, while still maintaining positive business relationships, and keeping doors open for future opportunities. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind when honing your skills at saying no.

  • Listen. Active listening is important when gathering the facts needed to make an informed decision. Listening shows interest, and brings clarity. Listening affirms and respects the other person, even if the answer is no. Listening is the basis for future dialogue. “No, but I have the information and I’ll keep it in mind.”
  • Focus. Before making any new commitments, focus on the obligations you currently have. How could added commitments possibly rearrange the current priorities, or side track the forward motion of the business. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t fit your business plan, say so.
  • Time. Sleep on it. Give yourself time to weigh all the possibilities, advantages, and disadvantages. Take time to seek advice from others. Take time to think.Will this request compromise your high standards? Will it put an added stress on you or others? Will it promote your core business? Thoughtful consideration before a “no” affirms the skill of your decision making.
  • Truth. The truth serves best. No is no. No should be simple and clear, with or without a rationale. Truthfully declining an offer leaves everyone’s integrity in tack.
  • Redirect. Say yes to something else. It is good business to do good business. If the request is something you can’t take on, perhaps you can give a lead along with your “no.” I’m saying no on this, however, have you considered talking to _about this? Great leaders always encourage the success of others.

Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a National Education Consultant, can be reached at 901-574-2956 or

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