Thanks, But No Thanks

How turning down clients could help you grow your business.

It wasn't too many years ago that I did something I thought I'd never do: I turned down business. Just starting out, I was eager to accept work from almost anyone who had not been convicted of a felony. But as time went on, I realized that was a foolish, naive approach to growing my business.

Wise businesspeople know they have to serve a targeted market. When you try to serve everyone, the quality of your work diminishes.

Turning down business is tough to do because, for many of us who own small companies, there may not be that many customers to begin with. But growing your business is like investing in the stock market: You need to stick with it for the long haul, and you need to stay true to your long-term plan.

For a small business, that means identifying your target market and setting high standards for how you will do business and whom you will serve. After all, if people you do business with end up costing you money and aggravation, then they aren't desirable customers--they are hazards.

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Thanks, But No Thanks.

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