Saying "no" quickly (but politely) is the right thing for us and them

A guy called me last week to discuss his idea for a partnership between our businesses. I quickly, but very politely, told him “Thanks, but we aren’t interested.” I made it clear that my swift rejection had nothing to do with him, and that we simply don’t entertain any partnership ideas. And I was deliberately polite about it, because, well … because I can never understand people that aren’t kind in these situations. It’s disrespectful and induces bad karma when you are curt or rude. Why not let somebody down easily?

Nevertheless, he persisted. I thought that was cool. He has a startup business, and he is being scrappy and hustling and didn’t want to just take “no” for an answer. He tried to help me understand how his idea would be both simple as well as beneficial to Schedulefly. I nodded knowingly as he talked, remembering when I’ve been on the other side of that type of call. I’ve played his role many times, so I admired and related to his passion for his business, and his effort help me see why we should continue the conversation. But I once again thanked him and told him no, in a very nice way.

He then asked if I’d be willing to just view a demo of his software, to make sure I knew what I was turning down before making a final decision. That’s when he almost had me. I started to feel bad and was considering relenting, but thankfully for him and me, I held the line. I explained it would have been be disrespectful to him to lend hope by agreeing to the demo, knowing all along what the final outcome would be. Three years ago I would have agreed to view the demo because I wouldn’t have wanted to seem like a jerk. But after spending lots of time on those types of calls, I finally figured that while it made me feel momentarily good about myself to allow the conversation to continue, it wasn’t the right thing to do because it only delayed the inevitable and wasted a lot of people’s time.

It’s good to have non-negotiable lines in the sand for certain aspects of your business. Doing so helps you stay focused and makes decisions easy. So I’m glad we don’t have any wiggle room on this topic. Our answer to partnership offers is No, and I can always say it quickly and definitively – but politely. It’s the right thing for us and for any aspiring partners.