Skip to Content

The One Word Managers Need to Say More Often

Kevin Chou, cofounder and CEO of KabamKevin Chou, cofounder and CEO of Kabam
Kevin Chou, cofounder and CEO of Kabam

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to keep your company successful? is written by Kevin Chou, cofounder and CEO of Kabam.

At small companies like Kabam, time, resources, and bandwidth are finite. So it’s no surprise that in order to stay focused we need to know when to say ‘no.’ It takes discipline and courage to say no more often than yes, but if your company isn’t laser-focused, you may be saying ‘yes’ too often. Sometimes, saying no (thank you) is easy. Vendors upselling an unneeded product are an easy no. Speaking engagements requiring significant travel days are also easy to decline. And although we don’t like to turn down charities or educational events, we’re firm that Kabam’s time is limited and valuable.

See also: The biggest mistake a successful company can make

Other requests are much more difficult to decline, but we say no with equal resolve. For example, we have to know when to decline a customer demand for a product upgrade or program that can’t be done sustainably. We must balance the customer request with the allocation of resources against the entirety of the customers’ experience. It’s also difficult for us to decline investments. Kabam has become Hollywood’s go-to company for creating mobile games tied into hit movie franchises. We have had to say no to many studios who have asked us to partner on games based on their IP. It’s very hard for a small six-year-old company to decline a partnership with Hollywood studios, but we do so regularly — knowing that we aren’t the right partner for even some of the most iconic brands.

Perhaps the hardest no of all is internal. Kabam has cancelled, discontinued, and withdrawn investments in various games. Teams are certainly discouraged by these tough decisions, but they understand that we simply cannot support games that diffuse the Kabam brand. However, the agony of saying ‘no’ so often is mitigated by the joy of saying ‘yes’ to the big bets we know will shape the company. This means agreeing to hires and promotions whose price tag reflects their world class talents. We eagerly say ‘yes’ to product concepts with big vision and scope, which also present big risks, but potentially even bigger rewards. And we readily embrace boldly innovative R&D programs that substantially differentiate our game experiences.