What should you do when you’re presented with an opportunity to pursue a project that’s not perfectly aligned with the mission of your business?
Most business advice would tell you to say no. Turn it down. Don’t stray. You’re time is your most valuable commodity so don’t go spending it on
things that aren’t mission critical. I think that’s good advice but I don’t think you should take it until you’re running an established business that’s making real profits and has to follow a very specific strategy for future growth. When you’re starting out (and starting out can take many years sometimes) I’d like to suggest that you say yes to requests for your time and your expertise.
Say yes to those opportunities that show up in your inbox. Yes, you’ll review that new iPad app for crafters. Yes you’ll assist with an introductory sewing class at the community center. Yes, you’ll create a custom teddy bear for your neighbor’s daughter. Say yes and take it on.
I’m all in favor of taking the active role in the direction f your business, but now is a time to agree to the unexpected opportunity.
If something isn’t directly related to your product line why should you embrace it? Because when you’re enterprise is still small it’s valuable
to follow new avenues. You don’t know where they’ll lead and at the very least you’ll learn not to follow that particular one again. Accepting opportunities means you’ll make connections with new people, figure out how long things take to plan and make, find out what you’re good at and what drives you crazy, and push yourself to delve into something you wouldn’t have sought out on your own. Most importantly, you’ll better
define your boundaries.
Later, when your business is established and is turning a profit you’ll be able to give a confident no to some requests, and with good reason. At
that point saying no will leave room for you to focus on your mission. Now, though, far more success will come your way if you deliberately
choose to say yes and see where it leads.
I love the story Tina Fey tells about finding a folder with notes she’d jotted from a class at Second City. Her teacher had given some rules for
doing improv comedy and one of them was, “The fun is always on the other side of yes.”She says she’s adopted this mantra for her life and career, clearly with great effect.
A few months ago Wendi emailed me with the idea for a six month subscription club for softie makers. Her idea involved seeking out six
indie designers and having each one create an exclusive pattern for club members. She asked me if I wanted in. Hmmm… Did I want to be a part of this?
I said yes, even though the model was entirely new to me. I helped Wendi brainstorm a list of softie pattern designers to ask and we got four incredible women to join us. Six Months of Softies has become really popular and it’s been great fun to collaborate with this group of designers. But you know what? Not everyone on our list said yes. I’m really glad I did.
When you choose to embrace a new opportunity, to agree to a collaboration, to try a new role, there’s something waiting for you on the other side.
It may not be always be “the fun” but it is certain to be instructive. Tina Fey describes life as improvisation and she strives to say yes even when she
feels she may be in over her head. I would certainly descirbe running a creative business as improvisation, too, and I know there is fun and profit to be had on the other side of yes.