Strategic Plan for 2006 — 12 Places to Say No


Happy New Year! I’m bringing back this article from the beginning of last year…because life and work are still full of lots of stuff!

“No” seems like such a negative word. Usually we don’t want to use the
word when correcting kids or when your colleague asks to borrow money
for lunch.

Yet in business, as well as in our personal life, we want to say "no!"

"no" is the most strategic decision we can make. By saying "no", we
focus and improve quality of the ‘yes’ areas. We improve ourselves and
our organization’s effectiveness. "No" empowers people because it
simplifies. Our companies succeed on the basis of what, where and how
we say “no”. And “no” gets some life back into our lives!

need to say "no", but we’re not very good at it. In business we give it
another name… “prioritization” or "strategic planning". But then we get
back to day-to-day, we forget what we prioritized and planned. We end
up letting the “nos” slip back in.

new year, let’s resolve to give "no" the strategic strength it
deserves! “Just Say No” to Drugs”…Let’s extend this proclamation to
12 areas to “Just Say No" to in 2005, one for each month!

1. What strategies, initiatives and activities will you say "no" to?

once went through an ‘important / urgent’ exercise with my team where
we outlined over 50 initiatives and activities in the coming quarter.
At the end of the exercise we cut off 30% of our list. Ideas are
abundant. Time and resources are not. There is great feeling focus,
empowerment, and impact when everyone agrees on paper the activities
that will not be done.

2. What measurements will you ignore?

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know I’m a big believer in measurements, including Six Sigma in marketing.
In my experience, most companies lack good measures. Nonetheless,
what’s important is rigorously managing the business with the right
measures. This may mean narrowing focus on reporting or analyzing
certain measures. More importantly, pay close attention to the “killer
metrics” — those key measurements that make a big difference in the
P&L. They are usually related to customer satisfaction and the
levers that directly drive growth, margin, operating expense and ROI.
Delegate ownership and rigor on the smaller measures, which are levers
towards the “killer metrics”.

3. What customers will you not target?

friend of mine is a CEO coach who knows his ideal client– a company
with revenues greater than $50M, at a point of transition, positioned
for growth, and has a humble leader willing to take coaching. He gets
requests to work with many other companies, but with limited time, he
says "no" to many prospective clients.

Who is your ideal prospect, client or customer? If you haven’t identified them, you should. Then, articulate who you will not target. Finally, make decisions on segments of your customers that deserve "platinum” treatment, and those who don’t.

4. What relationships will you not keep?

are the key to a company’s success. Therefore, people who aren’t
working out are draining effectiveness and risking success. One of the
biggest mistakes managers make is not moving quickly to get the right
people off the bus, and get the right people on the bus in the right
position (as Jim Collins states in
Good to Great).

a personal level, what company do you keep that makes an impact in your
life (learning, career, fun)? Therefore, with shom can you spend less
time with? My pastor in Santa Cruz once said, "Life is like 6 sides of
a dice. There is no seventh side. You have to choose where, how and
with whom you spend those 6 sides…and how much time you spend on each

5. What competitors will you not follow?

companies should only pay close attention to a couple of competitors.
If you try to pay attention to the entire set of competitors in a large
industry, you spend too little time focusing on the customer.

choosing what competitors not to follow, you can better understand
primary competitors who are rallying for your best customers’
attention. Also, it affords you time to pay attention to the
customer…which is the primary focus necessary to succeed over all

6. What will you remove from your web site?

sites are magnets for content and pages that build up over time.
Eventually, many of these pages get one visit per month. It’s often why
large companies do a redesign every 2-3 years…sort of a ‘web site

you looked at your page visits lately? What pages get little traffic
and can be removed? What content on the remaining pages can be removed
because it doesn’t make an impact? Get an outside perspective.

7. What money will you not spend?

I were to start a company, the first dollar of marketing investment
goes towards things that can be measured. Every dollar spent in an
organization should be thought of as an investment towards greater
operating income — even petty cash. With this in mind, what things, or
even entire budget categories, will you not spend? Personally, what
things did you spend last year that really made an impact in your life?
Could you have done without 50% of them?

8. What meetings will you decline?

I once had to take an emergency
business trip and my admin cancelled all my meetings for two days. As
you might imagine, the meetings went fine without me…but they seem so
important when they are set up, don’t they?!

Someone once told me that choosing meetings is a conscious decision
every executive needs to make. The meetings should be used to make
strategic decisions, where multiple functions are involved. Decline or
delegate informational meetings. Cut back recurring meetings. When my
team went through the important/urgent exercise, meetings were a major
part of our ability to gain back some work/life balance.

9. What trips will you not make?

1998 I ran marketing for a web-based telecommunications company where
we believed online meetings and conference calls would replace trips to
customers. We were disillusioned and ahead of our time. Travel is not
going away. In fact, it’s starting to grow again.

can’t deny the power of ‘showing up’ in person. I once made a trip to a
prestigious school in Boston to judge an ecommerce case study. Three
hours later I walked away with two groups ready to do free research! I
don’t like trips, but great things happen when I show up and interact
with customers and colleagues.

trips are very time consuming…even more so than company meetings. This
may be a good year to consider how you can use technology to replace
trips, and only travel when it can make a big impact towards your
primary goals.

10. What slides will you not create?

have thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of slides that I (or my team)
have created. Early in my career, I believed the audience should know
as much as possible, so I included a lot of densely packed information
(nicely laid out!) in 30 or so slides. Yet, the audience probably cared
about the information that was on two slides. The “less is more”
principle definitely applies to presentations.

Guy Kawasaki, in his recent best-selling book, Art of the Start,
suggests entrepreneurs pitch presentation have no more than 15 slides.
That’s 15 slides to describe a complex business venture and persuade
VCs to invest millions of dollars!

presentations, as in good writing, choose to edit. Then edit again.
Then repeat. This should reduce the number of slides and the content in
those slides. Think about creating a presentation the way press
releases are created, and good web copy is written – inverted pyramid
with most important information first. The rest becomes backup.

11. What will you not say?

stepmother shared with me a profile of a man in a Christian
organization she deeply respects. He is also highly respected by those
who work for and with him because of what he does not say. He
does not say things in a sarcastic manner, nor does he openly criticize
others. He sticks with a principle of saying nothing that does not move
the ‘agenda’ forward or uplift others. As such, he is someone who is in
high regard, even from those he once had to fire.

We move so fast, sometimes what comes to mind flows directly to the lips. By consciously choosing 2 or 3 things not to say this year (or ways to say them), perhaps you can ironically discover what’s ‘missing’ from your leadership effectiveness.

12. What thoughts will you not entertain?

What does every self-help book teach? Think it, believe it, do it. See this video (left nav) by Stevie Rae,
a Wizard of Ads partner who reiterates this message with passion. I’ve
come to realize that everyone (even great leaders) have thoughts of
inadequacy. It seems the great leaders choose to remove those thoughts
when they appear. Don’t tolerate negative
thoughts about yourself or others. If that doesn’t work, then as Ralph
Waldo Emerson said, “Do the act, and the attitude follows.”

12 Responses


    Happy 2006! A new beginning. It’s either another year to pretty much do the same ol’ thing or it’s a year to set about making better, more doable goals than ever before. As someone who participates in or leads innumerable

  2. Saying “No” As Part of Your Strategy for 2006

    Happy 2006! A new beginning. It’s either another year to pretty much do the same ol’ thing or it’s a year to set about making better, more doable goals than ever before. As someone who participates in or leads innumerable

  3. says:

    Strategic Plan for 2006 12 Places to Say No

    Sam Decker, at Decker Marketing, gives a good tutorial at the beginning of 2006 – actually 12 of them, for us to work on them everyone to arhieve a goal – what to say No. Actually, I found saying No is hard, especially when…

  4. jaldous says:

    12 Places to Say No

    12 Places to Say No

  5. Eve Abbott says:

    I put together a “Simplify Your LIfe Checklist” resources article every year to help people make their life more liveable by taking simple measures like getting off of junkmail, catalog and phone solicitation lists. Like deciding to be intentional about your thoughts it is a grand way to begin 2006.
    It is not enough to identify what you won’t do unless you identify what you will replace those do-nots with an “I will do..’
    The reason is simply that the brain doesn’t work well (or really at all) with negatives. “Please don’t spill the milk” is likely to be read and/or heard as “Please spill the milk”. I kid you not!
    Reframing or restating all of your changes in the positive format will give it much more power — in your thoughts and deeds throughout the year.
    For example, “I am not going to spend $1500 dollars at Starbucks this year” (one cup of $4.50 coffee at a time). will be much more real to you if it is “I am going to spend $1500 this year on my family vacations instead of dropping my money at Starbucks.”
    I absolutely 100% agree that if you dwell on negative or self-defeating thoughts — they will become your reality. The process has been noted for over 4,000 in human experience First come Feelings, then thoughts, then Actions, then Habits, then you internalize that characteristic or personality trait.
    Just take advantage of understanding the power of the positive to help you achieve the 2006 of your dreams!
    If you’d like to employ the “2006 Simplify Your LIfe Checklist” resources article go to and print a copy or download the pdf.
    Best wishes to all for a wonderful new year!

  6. Outstanding post, no? Thanks for sharing!

  7. Really good post. Am even know thinking about what not to do. It feels liberating. Thanks.

  8. Resolved: Say ‘no’ more often!

    We’re early in the new year, and you’ve had more than enough 2006 predictions and action items thrown at you. Your to-do listis growing ever longer.Wouldn’t it feel great to say no to some of them? Sam Decker has an interesting blo

  9. working on your 2006 goals?

    2 links that will help with goals, beyond what I have already posted: 12 places to say no – via John Pocaro Clean Sweep personal checklist – via Shawn Morrissey…

  10. Group 80/20 says:

    Don’t do stuff that doesn’t create a return on investment

    I have a confession. I like Wayne Wilson and his blog Companies in Transition. I like the editorial mix of leadership skills with metrics. Wayne was formerly the President and CFO of PC Connection a Fortune 1000 company and that enjoyed

  11. Rhonda Olsen says:

    Awesome article! Thanks so much for the “no” tips! :0)

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