February 23, 2008

Strategy means saying 'no'

Chapter 2 in Strategy and the Fat Smoker; Doing What's Obvious But Not Easy is titled Strategy means saying 'no'. In it, he quotes Dick Tyler of law firm CMS Cameron McKenna:
The hardest thing in the world for most professionals to do is to turn work away. It offends our desperate desire to be liked by everyone, and plays to insecurity that afflicts even the best of us. The moment we aren't worked off our feet, we think we'll never work again.
Maister says saying 'no' is essential for becoming successful because it will help you to focus on doing what you're good at for the client segment you want to work for which will help you build a specific and positive reputation. Maister mentions the typical response he gets to this:
Yes, it may be more noble and a good way to earn trust, but doesn't it just allow a competitor to get his nose under the tent? Once you let a competitor start serving your client, don't you run the risk of that competitor stealing your relationship? Shouldn't you work to keep your competitors out of dealing with your clients?
Maister explains this is an unrealistic view saying: The hope that you can keep everyone else out is delusional." At the end of the chapter he paraphrases Confucius:
Make sure that the right people like you, and it will be expected that others will not. That's how the world works.

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