Pre-empt the Naysayer

Jan 14, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

Everyone hates a naysayer.  You know the guy that no matter what unique, amazing, idea is presented finds 10 reasons it won’t work before you say “thank you, any questions?”

They don’t even have to think about it.  The business roadblocks and barriers just fly up down that road you are taking them.

The inventors.

The creators.

We don’t want to hear about roadblocks, barriers, why nots!  We want the encouragement

“Awesome idea.”

“We could patent this.”

“After we master it we can turn it into a franchise.”

Then the creative warrior decides they aren’t going to let a few naysayers keep them down.

They slay the naysayer!!

Flying Blind

And off they run down the road of creation.  That is….until they run into that first roadblock.  Oops!  Didn’t someone mention that….

….the cost of steel was going up.

….we would need to recruit 400 new employees.

….the bank would require collateral.

“Now what do we do?”

So ends many great ideas.

Does that mean we should listen to the naysayers?

If we did that, we would never try anything new.

Make the Barriers Part of the Process

On the contrary!  What I have learned in both business and life is that a part of assessing any direction, decision, new project, product or idea is to consider all of the roadblocks and barriers.  As a matter of fact, it is not only important, but must be done in a certain order.

  1. Problem or Opportunity comes up-A new problem arises for a small sales distributing company.  They have the opportunity to get an exclusive contract with an innovative cutting edge equipment provider, however, they must purchase the product to resell.  In the past they have always sold used equipment.  This will give them an incredible sales opportunity.
  2. Brainstorm ideas – don’t allow any filters at this stage.  We want ideas on how to make it happen.  Where can we sell this new equipment?  How can we hit the quota to keep exclusivity?  Get excited, and yes, out of the box.
  3. Embrace and Analyze barriers – now that you have some solid ideas to take advantage of the opportunity, now is the time to understand the barriers.  The biggest barrier is they don’t just get a pass through commission.  This would be great except that most of this equipment costs $200,000.00-$300,000.00 per item.  We don’t have that kind of cash flow?  This isn’t a barrier you want to ignore.  If you do, you sell one piece of equipment and can’t deliver because you can’t purchase the item for resale.
  4. Look for solutions –  we need to consider both the opportunities and challenges when we are putting together our plans.  Part of the action steps need to include how to solve the cash flow problem.  It may be to get a line of credit secured by specific account receivable contracts.  Or to have a hefty downpayment policy for purchases of new equipment.  Whatever the solution, plan for it just like you would the positive and exciting part of the project.

Too many new ideas/projects fail because of unforeseen barriers.  Whether the barriers were never thought of or ignored because of the reputation of the naysayer, obstacles are real and almost always present.

If you want to see your idea get off the ground then go ahead and point out the barriers to begin with.  Make it part of your assessment process.  This will surely shut up even the naysayer when you show them your plan to knock down or get around that inevitable roadblock.

Reader Interactions


  1. Brad Harmon says

    Ouch! That naysayer sounds exactly like me. I’ve learned not to immediately voice these roadblocks, but this doesn’t stop my mind from spotting them very quickly. I see too many people announce their great plan after nothing more than a few brainstorming sessions without considering potential challenges and obstacles before the announcement. I really like your steps 3 & 4. These will shut up most of your well-meaning naysayers. The rest will find fault in anything.

  2. Bradley J. Moore says

    So, in some ways the naysayers are important to help us become aware of the potential obstacles. We all need these people on our team, in the inner circle. But there are so many ways to challenge each other without coming off as a “negative naysayer”. In the NY Times “Corner Office” interview today the CEO talked about using “Most Respectful Interpretation.” In other words, she wants conflict and challenges in order to get to the best solutions, but she makes sure everyone is respectful in the way they phrase their questions or challenges. I think this is a great idea.

    Nice post, Sue, and I’m lovin’ your clean layout of the blog!

    • S_Miley says

      The key to being an effective naysayer, or maybe resourceful, (another post) is to follow up concerns or obstacles with some solutions. It may not be the perfect solution, but it gets the ball rolling. If you are always just pointing out the negatives and leaving it to everyone else to come up with solutions, it feels less like the naysayer isn’t part of the team. I agree totally Bradley with CEO’s being comfortable with conflict and challenges. I had a mentor who always told me conflict was good, just don’t make it personal. Keep the debate on the conflict, not the person.

      Brad, I bet you have helped with many a solution in your day!!

      Thanks for the comments!

  3. David@RedLetterBelievers says

    I work with a number of people who’s natural inclination is to say ‘no’. They always look for a reason things won’t work.

    I’ve grown to appreciate (well, most of the time), these people because if anyone will see danger, they will.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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