There comes a time when a business owner will be longing for more free time, because there’s no doubt that time is your biggest asset. As someone who owns their own company, you’re incredibly busy, and if you are a sole trader, your time is in constant demand as you often have to do everything yourself. Sales, accounts, IT, customer service – it all falls on you, and that can sometimes be overwhelming.

So, where does the problem lie? It’s not that you have too much to do. It’s not that you’ve got KPIs to hit. It’s managing your time effectively. Everyone has the same number of minutes and hours in a day, but everybody uses their time differently.

You can take steps to prioritise your tasks. You could even get a diary and improve your ability to plan ahead, but there’s ultimately one thing you can do to help maximise your precious time as a business owner, and it’s the one thing business owners hate: Learn to say no.

A lot of people think saying “no” is rude and that you couldn’t possibly say that to your customers, out of fear of them leaving and never coming back. But it’s that backwards thinking that will cost you future business. We all know the phrase “good fences make good neighbours” which rings true here.

In actual fact, you’ve built a relationship with your customers, but what you lack is firm boundaries. With them in place, you have the freedom to act in whatever way is best for your business, with less distractions and less unwanted intrusions.

The power of setting boundaries

Building good fences, in this case setting boundaries, is the most important skill you can learn as a business owner, because it’s key to mastering both personal and professional growth.

You also set the boundaries by taking control of the relationship from the start. For example, you might be having a meeting with a potential client – in order to take control and set the boundaries, you want to agree the terms and conditions above anything else. If the customer requires more, the trick is to renegotiate for a cost or explain to them that what they’re asking for isn’t included in the price.

This way you’re using the power of boundaries to set out how the relationship will develop over time, keeping you in control and ultimately, ensuring both parties remain happy. And learning to say “no” is one of the boundaries you can create, because in reality, saying no opens up the space for you to say “yes”.

In order to reach your goals, you have to eliminate the things that are preventing you from getting there. This could be people, situations, commitments – anything that distracts you or anything you simply don’t enjoy.

So, next time you’re considering a commitment, ask yourself: “Is this going to help me achieve my goals”. Be purposeful in your actions, because “no” is the two-letter word that can be powerful and carry a huge impact, whether that impact be on you or your business.