Chronic compromising why most small businesses fail

Learning how to start with no, rather than starting with yes or maybe, will boost your business success

The mortality rate for small businesses is scary.

Approximately seven out of 10 new small businesses survive at least two years, half almost five years, a third more than 10 years, according to research. And 25 per cent last 15-plus years.

The reasons for the high mortality rate changes little year-to-year. High on the list are insufficient funds, poor product or service, unqualified entrepreneurs, and lack of commitment.

But the most important, yet seldom discussed, reason most small businesses fail is fear of failure, according Jim Camp, author of, among other books, Start with No . That oppressive fear leads to a condition Camp calls “chronic compromise.”

Compromise is also known as “getting to yes” and “finding a win-win solution.” Chronic compromising is all about trying to please the other side, which means that you will be basing all decisions in the negotiation on an emotion – the need to be liked. Compromise-based negotiating may be the single most harmful behaviour pattern a small business owner can fall into.

The best skill entrepreneurs can learn is the same one toddlers learn when they are first testing their power. It’s saying no and inviting the other party to say no back.  That’s when true discussion begins.

Learning how to start with no, rather than starting with yes or maybe, will not only boost your business success, but it will cure new business-owners from chronically compromising, a mistake that will eventually cripple their business, says Camp.

From that sturdy foundation, Camp urges new entrepreneurs to heed the following 11 business-building tips:

  1. Start with “no.” Don’t compromise. Instead, invite the other party to say no. Tell him (or her) you won’t take no as a personal rejection. A shrewd adversary will view you with more respect and feel safer to start the discussion.
  2. Forget closing. Don’t think about, hope for, or plan for the outcome of the deal. Focus instead only on what can be controlled: Your behaviour and activity during the negotiation.
  3. Be prepared. Before you go into a meeting, learn as much as you can about the competition.
  4. Identify obstacles. Before any meeting, identify problems that might crop up during the negotiation.
  5. Expose the elephant. Bring your problem, their problem, and anything else standing in the way of your agreement out into the open. Doing so clears the air and eliminates surprises.
  6. Leave emotions home. In negotiations, be emotionally neutral. Exercise self-control so you have no expectations, fears, or judgments. Above all, overcome neediness, the number-one deal killer.
  7. Let your opponent feel superior to you. Don’t dress to impress, name drop, use impressive language, or get on a grandstand.
  8. Get him talking. The person talking most loses the advantage. Ask great questions that begin with what, why, how, when, and where. Learn about his needs, requirements, hopes, fears, plans, position, and business objectives so you can position yourself as the solution.
  9. Build your mission and purpose around competitor. Every negotiation, whether it’s a phone call or a formal business meeting, needs a mission and purpose. Your M&P is to help the other party see how your three or four top features will benefit him and help him achieve his goals.
  10. Solve his problem. Help him see that giving you the deal you’ve proposed is to his advantage. Spend all of your time getting information about his world, the challenges he anticipates, and the problems he sees – and then present yourself as the solution.
  11. Don’t be friends. The other party is not your friend. You’re not seeking loyalty or a long-term relationship – symbols of neediness. What you want, instead, is respect and a fair agreement that accomplishes your mission and purpose, and solves his problem.


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