Article in brief: the author discusses the journey that leads to making conscious choices with your time.
There’s one particular journey every business owner goes through eventually. It’s learning to say no.
At the beginning, you are this starry-eyed entrepreneur who sees possibilities everywhere. You say yes to almost everything, and you don’t know what could possibly be your lucky break or what will benefit you. To be completely honest, in the early days you NEED to say yes to things, as well as trying to make ends meet, and you try to explore every possible way to make that happen.
But eventually, through experience, you become wiser. You begin to distinguish between what is a waste of your time and what could truly benefit you in the long-term. Your discretion is something that becomes very essential to the long-term survival and progress of your business.
Sometimes it’s not clear what could possibly be a good opportunity or what won’t. In the early stages of your business, you will have a lot of people taking advantage of your struggling start-up status that they will begin to ask for things for free in exchange for ‘promotion’. Try to never fall for this trap. They will play their popularity card and lure you with the image of their so-called ‘fame’ to get you to give them freebies. As you are just a beginner, this sort of promotion is good publicity. But you must first ask yourself some questions. Don’t only think of the production cost involved.
With me for example, it wasn’t simply calculating how much it would cost me to make 100 cupcakes. I had to consider the return-on-investment by looking at a lot of other factors. How much time will this take up from my schedule and my staff’s work hours? What other tasks will it prevent them from doing? More importantly, I had to consider the target audience this was going to. If these 100 cupcakes (along with my flyers or media kit!) were going to be served at the launch of a new industrial office in another area of town further away, was it really worth it? Will the attendees there be my target customers?
On the other hand, if the cupcakes were going to be given out at a parent-teacher conference at a nearby school with only my mini boxes for branding then that would be an opportunity I would take, as mums around the neighborhood are my target.
This may seem like common logic but in the early stages of a business it can be quite difficult to distinguish between opportunities that are worth it and those that will be a waste of time.
Another personal example is from what happened to us last year. One of the largest publications in the UAE were hosting an annual celebration and asked us to do their goody bags free of cost. We were asked to provide vouchers and also wrap all those goodie bags. The benefit was that we would have exposure to more than 2,000 “influencers” and “high net worth individuals”- basically the crème de la crème of Dubai socialites.
I said no to that “opportunity”. It wasn’t the cost of preparing these 2,000 goodie bags that made me say no. It worked out much cheaper than placing an advertisement with the publication. What made me say no was looking at the return on investment. The type of event I would be catering to would be one of those glitzy, boozy affairs where goodie bags are an after-thought made up of generic, commercial print material that most people just throw away or never even bother to use. Also, after a night out, how much would my exposure stand out? It wasn’t worth the time or the effort.
I’ve noticed a far bigger return on investment when I give away a small cake for an intimate gathering of 10 friends where my cake can become a real topic of conversation. Learning this difference between opportunities is essential to your survival!
Once you start filtering your opportunities, you will be able to choose the ones that will be more beneficial for your business – not only for the projected publicity they will generate. Having less mental clutter to deal with will help you make better decisions for other more important things for your business, and will also be good for your well-being, because in today’s day and age, the less stress we give ourselves the better.
At the end of the day, there’s no litmus test to decide what opportunity will be worth it, but it’s important to think of the return on investment each opportunity will give you. Will it get you closer to your goal? How much exposure will you actually get? How could you better spend the time you’ll spend on this on other tasks?
Sidiqa is 25 years old and is half-Emirati and half-Pakistani. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace, and Security from the University of Durham in the UK. Sidiqa owns and manages the boutique-café concept store “Spontiphoria” in Wasl Square, Jumeirah.