This Could Be the Most Powerful Word in Business
MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for:What’s your New Year’s resolution? is written by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.
When asked by friends and colleagues what 2016 will be about for me, my response is straight-forward and simple: it’s the year of ‘no’. I’ve received some interesting reactions when sharing this — especially since many of these folks know me well, and know how much I love to say ‘yes’. I get the feeling they don’t really believe I can do it. What they don’t know is that I’ve already started and, thanks to a little planning and a lot of desire to take back a little of myself for me, I’m going to make ‘no’ a positive word in my day-to-day interactions.
Here’s why: 2015 was extremely successful for S’well and also quite overwhelming. The company experienced 400% growth. We launched major global initiatives with major global partners. We created new products. We made new friends and set the stage for a new year of exciting change. But, in the process, I also found myself on several different continents while wearing about 20 different executive (and not so executive) hats. I committed to be in places that were inspiring but not critical to my personal or professional goals. So while incredibly grateful for the massive amount of opportunity, by year’s end, I found myself exhausted and questioning whether each opportunity was worth my undivided attention and participation. Surviving that feeling along with the holiday sales rush, I’ve experienced the pleasure of perspective and quickly mapped out a few rules to set the stage for my year of ‘no’.
It starts with new guidelines. I’m making sure 2016’s priorities leave room for me, not just my company. You see, I love my company. But I also love my fiancé, my family, five-plus hours of sleep, mentoring, and my sanity. I’ll be running opportunities through my “just-say-no” filter in order to make time for those other personal things in my life. This means, if something doesn’t help achieve pertinent long- or short-term business goals or fulfill a personal passion (all previously identified), then I will politely decline.
Expanding resources is no longer a question. As a startup, sometimes it’s hard to know when and where to hire talent that feeds the company and provides the right support. And 2015 was one of those years where we needed the support but didn’t have time to find it — this had to change. I’m now partnering with new, smart experienced professionals who help expand the company’s brain power. We’re bringing in new team members to start wearing some of those hats I mentioned. This will be a key factor in allowing me to say ‘no’, but offer someone else who can say ‘yes’.
Investing time differently is part of my year of ‘no’ too. Because of these new resources, I’ll have more time to dive deeper into the parts of the business that I love most — new partnerships, creative endeavors, quality control, team building, and new product development. Hopefully, because of this decision, we can all have more fulfilling daily experiences that will allow us to be more efficient and happy.
Last, but not least, keeping life in perspective. How do I do this? Saying ‘no’ to something if it’s going to keep me from daily journaling. I’m also going to say ‘no’ to conversations that only revolve around business. I’m committing to more conversations — whether this is with family, friends or colleagues — that go beyond our professions. When you’re drowning in work, it can be hard to allow yourself the time and space needed to think about something else in your life, let alone something else in another person’s life. But when you do, it can open you up to new ideas, new relationships, and new ways of being human.
I can’t hide it — this idea scares me. I like to say ‘yes’ and say it often. But in saying ‘yes’ too often, I’m finding that a part of life that I crave is missing. So it’s time to start saying ‘no’ — and I dare anyone to try to stop me.