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Learning the Hard Way How to Say No

Ugh ... sometimes in my business dealings, I am reminded of that one person I dated in high school that I just couldn’t quit. You know the feeling. Sometimes, things were great. But at the end of the day, when you listed the pros and cons, you were always left in the red.

I know what it’s like to have to justify my business decisions to someone else. When I worked for a corporate company, I had to deal with a lot of clients and corporate politics — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now that I own my own business, I have the luxury of choosing who I work with and how I want to work. As you might have guessed, it’s extremely liberating for me.

Recently, I was working with a new client and I was getting some bad vibes. As a recruiter, I approach each new client with a fresh perspective. But, one thing never changes: I only work with companies that I would actually be willing to work for myself. So, when I started getting warning signs, I immediately asked myself, "Would I work for this company?" The answer was a resounding NO.

Every time we'd approach the end of the deal, this particular client would want a discount or try to change the terms of our agreement. There were even a few instances where they would make verbal promises, only to back out days later. As the frustrations set in, I continually tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. I would remind myself that they really needed my services.

Over time, the broken promises and shady dealings began to add up. With each occurrence, I would take the time to help them. Eventually, I took a step back and realized I could say no. Then came the final straw that broke the relationship. I received an email which detailed they were switching directions. The company was choosing to bring in other recruiters after they had promised me that I would be their sole contact. At that point in the process, I had sunk a ton of hours and produced a significant amount of work for them — most of which would likely be nullified. Still, they asked me to keep working with them. I said no.

Sometimes, it's difficult to walk away from a deal or a job that promises to pay handsomely. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I'd be doing a disservice to anyone I recruited to work there. If that's how they treat a contractor working for them, I determined they probably didn’t treat their employees much better.

This situation prompted me to evaluate the companies I worked for before I started my own business — not all bad. However, when I really think about it, it seems I contributed much more effort than they did.

When I work with candidates looking for a new job, I always want to know why they might leave their current employer or why they say they’re happy when it’s obvious that isn’t true. Is it the money? The work/life balance? Stability or fear of change? Whatever it is, remember that money isn’t everything. Make sure you're truly happy and that you have a give-and-take relationship with your employer. Sometimes, this simply isn’t the reality. I challenge you to step back and evaluate why you're in your current position.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with the wonderful companies I serve. I know that, despite these occasional negative relationships, I will continue to work with great people I have the privilege of meeting along the way. The chance to have these opportunities is the reason I left my full-time position — simply put, this is my passion. I love helping companies grow and being able to change people's lives for the better.

This particular situation with my (now former) client is a lesson I simply had to learn. Next time, I know I'll say no much sooner. Remember, if it’s not a good fit, don’t force it. It's okay to say no and walk away from something that seems like it would give you what you want, but for all the wrong reasons.

Have you ever walked away from something and felt a great sense of relief afterwards? I'd love for you to share your story!

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