When I first decided to become a consultant after having just left the corporate world I was eager for business. So eager, in fact, that I would pursue most any piece of business which crossed my path. I used an analogy (granted – a BAD analogy) of being a commercial fisherman. My statement was “I’m going after game fish but if the nets come up filled with crab it’s crab cakes for dinner. (I told you it was bad. :))
This all came back to me quite vividly earlier this week when I was speaking with a dear friend whose business is highly successful. Prospective clients actually seek them out because of their track record of proven results and strong team approach to business. However, there was a conflict between partners as to whether or not to accept one of these new prospects. One partner was enamored with the idea of quick and easy business but my friend was committed to adhering to their profile of the optimum client.
A classic conflict. Easy money vs. work vision. Quick cash vs. a commitment to their business manifesto.
What does one do in these situations? After several years of experiencing these types of conflicts I found the solution. I developed a list of non-negotiables. That’s my secret and it works! (I didn’t realize it at the time but these experiences were some of the seeds which grew into my Seven C’s of Branding. In particular, these situations helped to shape the first three C’s – Control, Clarity and Conviction…but more on that in a later post).
Non-negotiables are very simply a list of things – projects, clients, industries, etc. – with which I choose NOT to engage. Having these “won’t do’s” pre-determined and identified solves any potential conflict before it can become a reality. In addition to the resulting conflict avoidance, this practice provides me with three powerful benefits.
- When opportunities arise that are the least bit questionable, I already have my answer. I don’t need to take the time or experience the angst of pondering each and every situation which deviates from my business vision.
- Having already thought through most conflicts, I am equipped with a rational and authentic reason for turning down the opportunity and can do it in such a way as to not offend.
- Importantly, in most cases I have the ability to not only decline gracefully but I’m in a position to provide an alternative resource. It’s very powerful to say “I don’t believe I’m your solution but I recommend you speak with _____.” I’ve then provided value both to the prospect AND to the person to whom I refer them.
What’s truly awesome is that having a list of non-negotiables provides the same conflict avoidance and tangible benefits in any situation – business or personal. As I do with my clients, I urge you to get in the habit of creating your own list(s) of non-negotiables. It’s a practice which will pay dividends in the form of clarity and peace of mind.