Top 5 Reasons It's Crucial to Say NO - Pro Painter Network

Top 5 Reasons It’s Crucial to Say NO

Not just because it feels good..

Running a painting business can be tough. Many of us wear all the hats, the buck stops with us, and things just don’t happen if we’re not a part of it.

I’ve run my Denver painting business for 22 years now, and one of the biggest things I learned early on was how to say “NO” to customers.  It wasn’t easy at first, and not everyone has a great reaction to being told no. However, I’ve learned that the more I stay in my lane – or my business stays in its lane – the better we do as a company, and the better we do at serving our customers and our employees.

So what's the problem?

When I talk to other painting contractors and ask them about what’s hard about running a painting business, I constantly hear a few things:

  • “Not enough hours in the day”
  • “I’m overworked”
  • “I make too many promises”
  • “I have a hard time saying NO to customers”


All of these are a result of not saying NO, and all lead to overworking, stress, and potential burnout and collapse.

This is what collapse looks like. It's not good.

Early on in my career, I would say yes to everything:

“Nick, can you help me find X?!” – Yes.

“Nick, can you help me buy Y?!” – Yes.

“Nick, can you get this project done by the end of the month?!”  Yes yes yes.

Most of these were things I really didn’t know how to do (or knew I couldn’t do), but I thought as a business owner it was my job to always say YES. But after 22 years, I’ve found that the more I say no to things I don’t want to do, or things I cannnot easily achieve – the happier I am, and the happier my customers are.  

If I haven’t convinced you already, here are 5 concrete benefits of saying “NO”:

1) Allows you to say "YES"

Saying NO to things that don’t make you good money, allows you the space and freedom to say YES to better, more profitable projects. Too often we say yes to something – anything, even closely related to painting – even if we have never done it.

“Can you refinish my dining room table?” – NO

2) Improves your work/life balance

Time with family, and the space to enjoy it.

Saying NO to unrealistic timelines will keep your stress down, and empowers you to keep a better work/life balance. Too many painters make promises based on the hope that they will hire more people. Then, when that’s not possible, they end up letting the customer down and working more hours to compensate.

This leads to burnout. You should only book projects according to your current workforce. If you hire more people, then you can always move someone up in the schedule. 

3) Allows you to emphasize your strengths

Saying NO to things you don’t like doing allows you to focus on the services you do like, and the things you excel at. Have you ever been in the middle of one of these projects, knowing full well you wouldn’t like doing it, and then asked yourself “Why did I agree to do this??”  Life’s too short to do things you don’t like to do. There are plenty of things we LIKE to do, let’s market those things, and stick to them.

4) Allows you to set clear expectations

Saying NO to your employees can also help set clear boundaries and expectations. They want time off, but you are already booked out and need them.  You need to say no, but you need to have a system for time off. How much? When?  We all know that there are busier times of the year.  Encourage your team to take time off in the slower months, and lets all make money when things are super busy. 

5) Allows you to FOCUS your business

Focus. Saying NO helps you focus your business. I often talk about the Massive Action phase in business. In this phase we are doing all sorts of things. We need to eat, and we don’t know what we’re good at yet, or where we make the most money. 

BUT, after you have been doing this painting thing awhile, you need to start to focus, and start saying NO to certain kinds of projects. This will allow you and your team to get really good and efficient at the things you’ve focused on.

On average, my team can paint a kitchen cabinet set in half of the time most painters can do them. Why? We focused. We paint about 30 kitchens a month, and my teams are super efficient. It’s because we focused on, improved, and eventually mastered it.

"NO" doubt about it!

The power of saying NO can be huge for your mental state as well as your pocketbook.  Learn to say no, and your business will thrive, and you will be able to live the life you love. 

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