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April 30, 2011

Business success means being able to say “no”

My former boss once told me that you know you are successful in business when you can afford to say no. When you’re worried about survival, it’s very difficult to turn away any potential business – no matter how ill-suited it may be. Smaller resellers in our industry often face questionable opportunities but end up, despite the warning signs, taking on projects that lead to frustrations, costly corrections and loss of good will.

One small reseller that doesn’t have this problem is Netblaze Systems, a 4-person shop run by my brother, Alan Kaplan, and his partner, Igor Akkerman for the past 6 years. The following email thread shows how Alan responded to a recent request generated from his Web site:

Brian: I'm an attorney. I want to start scanning in my legal briefs and notes. Do you guys offer a solution that fits this?

Alan: Hi Brian. We got your submission; are you available tomorrow morning for a call?

Brian: Can you offer the solution…yes or no?

Alan:  No.

Alan thought that was the end of it, but the next morning he received another email from Brian:

Brian:  Then this where we will end the conversation. Next time don't try to force a call when you know you cannot deliver.

Alan: [Expletive deleted]. Of course we can do what you're asking, but not for an asshole like you.

While Brian apparently works on his own, he undoubtedly would have received the same response even if he worked for a large law firm.

During my many years in the technology industry, I’ve continued to witness the paradox of increasing sales by turning down business. And while I’ve passed on many opportunies due to anticipated personality difficulties, I’ve never done it in quite this style – only the owner of a very small organization could get away with such bluntness. Still, it did give me a chuckle.

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