I was born and raised in New York City. I remember its inhospitable climate, its frenetic busyness, its seemingly extreme competitiveness, and its often lack of civility. It was in this environment, however, that I learned the "survival" skills that would account for my success as an entrepreneur. The focus of this blog is a key survival lesson I learned from my father. He often instructed me to be "tough minded, but tender hearted." Another way to say this might be the words of Teddy Roosevelt: "Speak softly, but carry a big stick”.
My father was always cordial and concerned about the well being of others. This included his employees, his customers and his vendors. At the same time he used a phrase that I later used when necessary. The phrase is "This does not work for me” followed by silence. The phrase serves to simply state that the terms proposed are not acceptable without escalating the discussion into a conflict.
As an entrepreneur, you may often feel pressured to reduce your rates, or make other changes to agreements so as not to lose business. This phrase can help you stand your ground when you don’t feel like the proposed changes are reasonable.
For example, when I had my organic and specialty food distribution business, one of the producers that I represented informed me by email that he had decided to raise his prices on all products by 20%. This occurred at a time that he had been out of several products for four months! My response was simply: "This does not work for me."
The next day, I received a phone call from him wanting to discuss his reasoning behind the price increase. I listened and then repeated the words in my email and then went silent. After several minutes of silence, he indicated he would think about his decision and get back to me. Several days later I received another email postponing the increase indefinitely.
I recall, from my own experience, that so often, resolution and respect came to me from the use of these simple words. It goes along with tenacity and perseverance and the knowledge that it is how words are delivered that matter more than the words themselves.
I urge all entrepreneurs to practice the phrase "This does not work for me," and let me know what your results are. You may be pleasantly surprised how powerful they are and will help you in your quest of successful entrepreneurship.