Know To Say No

How to become really successful (According to Warren Buffett)

Adi Shmorak
3 min readSep 3, 2019
A gift wrapped package, handed out to you, by a delivery person.
Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

In my previous story I quoted Warren Buffett explaining the importance of saying no. While this is indeed true, it is rarely easy, especially when you’re an early-stage startup. If your P/MF is not solid and your targeting is not laser-focused, opportunities are, more often than not, distractions in disguise, unveiling their mask is how you learn to say no. It’s actually very simple but requires some attention and a bit of reframing. Here is a simple example:

A colleague is asking you out on a date. You like him/her and your first emotion is positive, but then you remember he/she has just recently broken up (and you’re not interested in being a rebound). Moreover, your last attempt at a workplace romance failed miserably (not without some embarrassing moments), so once reframed, you politely decline.

Having the opportunity reframed made saying no the logical thing to do, the incompatibility of the opportunity to you, was screaming “Don’t do it!” at you. The same goes for your startup. Not every customer/partner is right for you and while the opportunity seems appealing, you may find yourself doing something you don’t want, for someone you don’t appreciate that eventually distracts you from the path you set forth when starting your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Reframing in business is slightly different from what you may know, but it’s simple to do and requires just a few easy steps. Some you should take even before an opportunity comes along (part of your mindset). Let’s begin:

1. Vision

Define, in writing, who you are and what your startup is all about, aka Vision. That will help you evaluate how aligned an opportunity is with you & your vision.

2. Compatibility

When opportunity knocks, ask yourself how aligned it is with your vision. It’s OK to stray off the path (and even change vision) as long as you’re fully aware of it and doing so willingly.

3. Motivation (part 1)

What’s your motivation in this opportunity? Is it money? Fame? Networking? How likely is it? All is good as long as you don’t delude yourself. Lying to oneself is a big and painful mistake.

4. Motivation (part 2)

What’s their motivation? How are they going to use your services? Does their agenda align with yours? Sometimes, technical questions hold the answers to that. How much customization will they require? will they want white labeling? Any services/features you offer but they don’t want?

5. Instincts

Trust your instincts. What do they say? Carpe diem? or run like hell?

6. Visualize

Converse with your partners/employees/investors and try to visualize what can happen if you say “yes”. Do the same for “no”. Avoid automatically saying yes (or no) to anything. Make a habit of taking decisions (or consult) with your team/mentor etc.

7. Decide

Make up your mind. This is the most critical part. Staying on the fence will get you nowhere. Choose sides and learn to live with your mistakes (or successes, both can be complicated).

It’s also good to have the right frame for what failure is. It’s not the opposite of success, but rather a part of it. Just don’t make it a habit :-).

And if you ever need someone to consult with, ping me.



Adi Shmorak

A Product Manager, Biz Dev Director and Mentor, working with early stage startups, helping them to focus and scale.