Consultant Life: How To Say "No."

Thankfully, my consulting business has been very successful this year.  I am so very proud of the experience I have gained, relationships I have grown, and experience I have shared.  It has been a wild ride! At times, the success is hard to specifically measure. If you are beginning to work for yourself, I hope you are finding it surprising how in demand your services and talent have been!  What a great problem to have. I have found it takes the traditional rules of business and hard work.  None of which have been surprising.  However, this week, I encountered my first project that did not feel right to me.  As I build my client base, skill set, and experience, it never occurred to me that I would have to say no.  Especially not to a project that would be simple in comparison to others that I have taken on.

I am in the beauty industry, but this contract was more specific to the salon industry. Like anything else the salon industry is translatable to other industries you may be consulting in. If you are consulting, I bet you are savvy and well versed in your field. I have worked on branding, social media, marketing strategy, market research and hiring and training of educators.  

A large part of this contract was to recruit staff for a high end salon looking to grow it’s staff. Honest enough! Every business needs to expand and they need new talent to do it. After all, talent recruiters are a great asset to businesses looking to grow or fill a role.

 After the meeting, I began to think how I would approach this new contract before I officially accepted the project. As I began to brainstorm, my intuition did not feel right and slowly it occurred to me that this would be a conflict of interest for my business and possibly my reputation. I work with many salon owners, up and coming beauty brands, and various personalities in the beauty industry.  I assure you New York City is much smaller of a community than one would think. As somebody who regularly travels for work I can argue so is the whole country! News travels fast and your reputation is your brand. I recalled the quote “Your network is your net worth.” 

What would a salon owner think if they felt I had actively poached a high performing employee for this project, taking a possibly 6 figure earner away from them? How would I feel if I had a relationship with “Kate Capko” and come to find out she is convincing staff to leave me? The situation was clear. I needed to pass on this opportunity.  

No ambitious person ever wants to turn down an opportunity. This is a very hard decision to make.  This project was the first time I had to listen to what my gut was shouting at me.  By no means am I accusing the business owner looking to hire me of unethical practices.  Again, recruiting is valuable. Yet in our field this is different. I am not implying a sneaky proposition was made by any means.  It is very possible that this business owner simply did not understand the risk involved or the ethics of the salon world.  It is also true that the risk was greater for my business and not his.  This can happen to anyone. All of which is fair enough.

I politely sent a professional email turning down the opportunity, offering a fair solution of a respected recruiting firm that is unbiased instead and wishing them well in their search.  As my blog promotes consistent personal branding, I know this business can recruit talent effortlessly by simply sticking to their brand message.  Talent will be attracted to your brand esthetic if it is enticing and clear to them.  Turning down this contract, really put my mantra of staying focused to the test.  I am not building a business of showing beauty business owners how to be dishonest. I am in the business of assisting them in building their own brand and this should never come at the direct expense of another small business trying to do the same.  Especially not one that is in your network.

As a consultant, small business owner, and or freelance artist you already know “Your network is your net worth.” Your integrity will fuel your success. Every industry is very small.  A bad reputation will always lead you to a bad place.  Simple. I now know to take even more time considering a contract before accepting and I hope you will too. When building your business you do not have to jump to say yes.

There is enough success to go around for everyone. Being ethical should be of most importance while building your brand. If you are working for yourself, I hope you listen to yourself as well. Listen carefully to your intuition. Good Luck!