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As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Greg BrennemanGreg BrennemanGreg Brenneman, one of the world’s leading business turnaround executives, is chairman, president, and CEO of the private equity firm CCMP. Brenneman is one of the keynote speakers at MEDA’s upcoming convention: Intersections – Business as a Calling 2018, to be held Nov. 8-11 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The excerpt below is from his book: Right Away & All at Once: Five Steps to Transform Your Business and Enrich Your Life.

Learn to Say No

If you want to save time for your close friends, family members, and business partners who give you energy, then you must learn to say no. If you don’t learn how to say no, you’ll never have time to do what you most need to do.
In fact, saying no when people ask you to do things — even good things, valuable things, important things — is often far more important than saying yes.

Before you say yes to anything, make sure you have your personal Go Forward plan in front of you and then run through the Five Fs (Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness and Finance) to make sure you made a good decision. Get used to doing this, because it’s a crucial mental exercise. Why? Because without this discipline, most of us just keep saying yes to things until we discover we lack the time to do anything well. We spread ourselves too thin… and too late we discover we’ve picked up a whole bunch of white chips from our to-do list and no blue chips at all.

I’ve struggled with this problem over the years, and I’ve had to practice to get good at saying no. Consider, for example, our family giving strategy.

Brenneman final coverWe used to keep expanding our number of charities without allowing any of them to drop off. That eventually became a problem, because every charity took not only the effort required to write the check, but also our time and our talent: individuals wanting to meet, wanting input, asking to come solicit us for more or bigger donations. We discovered that we were supporting 32 charities, with each of them taking a fair amount of our time.

To address the problem, we met as a family and decided together to focus our giving on the platform we have been given, which we loosely called Faith At Work. We pruned the number of charities down to 20 — the number we could realistically manage with our time, talent, and treasure.

Now, whenever a request for donations to a new charity comes in, we look at how that charity fits with our Faith At Work generosity statement. In about 75 per cent of the cases we say no, even though the charities look perfectly good. We can say to them, “That isn’t what our family is focused on now, so we’re not going to waste your time by having you come to us just so we can send you a note later to say, ‘We’re not focused on it.’ We can tell you that right now.” Saying no saves an enormous amount of time for us and time and money for the charity. It frees up our time to spend with the charities and people in whom we’re really invested.

Pruning Has Its Benefits

It takes time to align your interest with the interests of those in your various circles. It takes effort to weed and prune your relationships to make sure you’re spending your life in ways that make a significant difference. It takes real work to create a well-oiled team that can win championships rather than continually hover at the bottom of the pack.

Do you want to enjoy some fine wine? Or do you want to settle for a box from Kroger?

The people mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the folks who travelled to Sonoma County to help their friend tend his backyard vineyard, know that pruning and weeding costs them something in terms of their time, their effort, and their comfort. But they also know something about the rewards they can expect.

Despite the really hard work, the author of the blog reported that “most people who come once actually come again to toil away in the hot sun.” Why? Why would they do that? The author describes the big payoff.
“[Afterward they] relax by the pool with good food, wine and company, plus a little music provided live by Dave and some of his guitar and accordion-playing campañeros. But then there’s the pool and people jumping into its cool depths, fully clothed. And the cheese, and biscuits and brownies, not to mention a glass or two of Dave’s finest.

As the sun gets lower in the sky, the music starts and dinner is served at the long table, the chatter gets louder and the sun sets on the newly tended vines and who in their right mind would ever want to leave?”
Why would anyone spend so much time and effort in pruning and weeding and aligning? Maybe the better question is, who in their right mind wouldn’t? ◆

Excerpted from Right Away & All At Once: Five Steps to Transform Your Business and Enrich Your Life.
Copyright ©2016. Published by RosettaBooks. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.