A banker friend of mine is VERY busy right now, but he did observe that most of the deals he is working are smaller with tighter margins. He also observed that some of the deals in his in-basket keep getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile. These are the deals that are higher maintenance, lowest margin for effort, and just not any fun to work on... deals that several months ago he would not have accepted.
"How many of those bottom-dwelling deals will really have any impact on your immediate income?" I asked. "Well...", he paused before stating, "None actually." So I continued, "How much will it impact your income if there are a growing number of clients out there not getting your best effort?" He could only nod as the light went off in his head.
His next words clearly showed he understood what might happen if he did not learn to say, "No." "Taking on clients I cannot service well means that I am creating my own negative referral network." "And," he continued with renewed inspiration, "If my reputation depends on excellence than I should be hand-picking every new client as if my career depended on it!"
"Exactly!" I replied. "Saying "No" can be your strongest marketing tool in any economy."
I know he is going to continue to do great things but his lesson is also ours -- Even when we feel the desire to panic our best action is to focus even harder on what we do best and turn down anything and everything outside that envelope. That is where profit lives and our success is ensured.