Why “Not Taking No For An Answer” Could Be the Worst Thing You’ll Ever Do

Last time  we talked brand, where it starts and what it does. Before moving onto the next steps, I wanted to take a second to dispel a common myth though:

People love to say, “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer”…

To back it up, they cite stories of successful entrepreneurs who at first attempt heard “no” from everyone they turned to for help, but somehow pushed forward to great success. These stories are true, but ignoring what others tell you is a terrible strategy.

… listening to this advice could be the single worst mistake you’ll ever make. Allow me to explain:

When Flint and Tinder first launched I was determined to make our own custom tyvek envelopes to mail our packages in.

I called a company and asked them to make an envelope  to my specifications at the price I wanted to pay. They said no. So I called another and another and another. Finally I found someone who agreed when I offered more money.

I paid almost twice what I was looking to spend, but by “not taking no for an answer” I got exactly what it was I was looking for.

About a week later, my vendor said something interesting. “You really should make them in a standard size. We could probably beat your original price and turn a job like this around lightning fast that way.”

See, he and everyone else I spoke to thought the exact size was super important to me… it wasn’t, it was just the size I thought I wanted, but give or take an inch would have been fine too. And much less costly.

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Nowadays, instead of “not taking no for an answer” I always ask “why” and “what if?”


Why… can’t you do it?” I might have asked the envelope guy.
“Because we don’t stock envelopes in that size, we’ll have to make custom dies to make your envelopes and, at the price you want, we’d lose money,” He’d likely have said.
What if… I make them in another size?”

Don’t get me wrong, hold onto all of the perseverance of “not taking no,” but get good at “why” and “what if” as well and the world will open up.

Flint and Tinder’s latest project Denim on Demand is a great example of the kinds of unexpected places “why / what if”-ing can lead.

I’d been bothering out jeans guy for a while about getting the price down on the make. It seemed like no matter the volumes we offered (1,000 pairs, 2,500 pairs, 5,000 pairs, 10,000 pairs) the price wasn’t moving. Finally I asked why. Turns out, once we crossed 2,500 or so (enough for him to set-up a line and get the right machines in order) there’s not much efficiency he can add regardless of of the volume. At the end of the day, once the denim is cut, he’s essentially making each pair one at a time.

As soon as he said that, the path ahead was clear; maybe what we needed wasn’t better pricing on each pair of the same jeans we were making for customers – but a way to ask customers exactly what they wanted each pair to look like before sending the order to our factory.

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This could be a big idea for us, or maybe not. But it wouldn’t have been a thought even if instead of exploring the options with a “why / what if” conversation we simply “didn’t take no for an answer” and moved onto the next name in the phone book to solve the problem.

Got it? Good. Can’t wait to see where it leads next…

Want to see more? Check Out Jake’s Top Tips for Entrepreneurs

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