Decision-Making: The Value of No

By Cathy Hodson

Editors by nature are trained decision makers. We make split second decisions every day on the fate of submitted materials, whether to include certain passages, or how to present the written word in the best possible flow of content.

So, too, do businesses make valued decisions each day. There are many types of business models, and some of the keys to success in this volatile market are for web editors to know our companies, know our audience or customers, and know when to say yes, and when to say no. “No” can be just as valuable a tool as “yes” can. Just think how many parents have raised more responsible children simply by implementing those two words, and knowing when to use each.

Nice and easy does it
I work for an association. Associations are typically not at the forefront of technology because everything moves slowly and methodically (read: governance by committee). The latest whiz bang technological marvel is not going to be implemented overnight – studies have to be done, a plan has to be made, people need to be consulted, RFPs prepared, vendors selected, and then an entire project management schema has to be put into place.

That’s not to say associations are behind the times, but rather that time moves more slowly there. If you work on Wall Street, moving cautiously most probably is not going to work. You need to be able to move fast in the fast-paced world of stocks, and make good solid decisions on your feet.

At an association, however, the value of weighing options, prioritizing projects, and making sure there is a solid path in place before you go down a certain road is a solid business practice. You can’t jump into a fire without first knowing what type of fire it is and how it must be handled, or you will experience the proverbial “getting burned.”

Even editing requires an editor to say “no” at times. No, this piece on the finer points of distilling whiskey doesn’t fit Parenting Today’s editorial needs at this moment. No, your travel expense request to edit the Larkin story from the Bahamas doesn’t fit into our editorial budget for the next 100 years.  No, your pet German shepherd cannot share your byline, even if he did lick the envelope.

Saying No with Confidence
Any business worth its salt is not going to rush into a snap decision just because it’s the latest and greatest. Sometimes there is real value in being able to say no – no to adding 30 more projects to a staff already overburdened. Saying no to trusting the word of someone in a different business model as being the perfect solution for your aging network when their data requirements are extremely different from yours.

Yet saying no, and moving more cautiously, can deeply frustrate staff and association members who have confidence in new technologies, or are naturally excited by technology. Still, just because everyone else is building or growing a Facebook presence is not necessarily enough reason or the right reason for your company to do it too.

Saying No to Right Now
The bottom line is to trust your experience, know what will work and what won’t for your business, and check things out before you sign on the dotted line. If you don’t have the staff resources to truly engage in social media, and build those conversations and member engagement, maybe it’s not the right solution for your organization right now. But your business must also be willing to explore new avenues, perhaps implementing key ideas or smaller doses of new theories and strategies before you plunge the entire company into overtaxing your resources – both economic and human.

There are other options, of course – you can outsource the work until your staff has cleared their projects enough to take on the additional work. Or you can dip your big toe in the social media waters, and control the level of engagement, again until you have time and resources to fully engage with your constituents.

Because the value of saying no now enables you to say yes later – yes, we proceeded carefully, steadfastly and directly to our goals – the right goals for our company. The true value of saying No is that it buys you the time to breed your success.


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