Whether you’re a young startup founder, product manager or even a veteran entrepreneur the challenge of deciding when to say yes and when to say no is equally difficult.
For the sake of productivity, it’s become common practice to say no; And while it may save us time and keep us laser focused, is saying no decreasing our ability to be responsive? Is it causing us to miss out on valuable, potentially game-changing, opportunities?
According to Sonny Vu, the founder and CEO of Misfit, it could be.
One of the most useful lessons I’ve learned stems from Liz Wiseman’s description of the rookie mentality.
The most powerful form of learning comes when we’re desperate; When we have no choice but to learn.
Even after learning Liz’s insight, I truthfully believed it would be different for Sonny.
After building two hugely successful companies, and currently leading Misfit to be one of the top five wearables in the world (there are over 400 wearables on the market), I didn’t think someone like Sonny would be desperate to learn. With all that he’s achieved shouldn’t he already have the answers?
To my surprise, Sonny’s insatiable desire to learn is the driving factor behind Misfit’s success – Saying yes isn’t a part of their culture. It defines it.
When it comes to a customer wanting to buy your product, and you say no – Every time you say no it is inexcusable.
This isn’t to say that if a dog walking startup inquired about partnering with Misfit Sonny would eagerly dive in. It simply implies the team’s willingness to constantly step out of their comfort zone and experiment; Making international expansion, potential partnerships, and new features the heartbeat of the company.
Over 60% of Misfit’s sales are international and the startup fosters numerous partnerships with industry leaders like Swarovski, Nest, Spotify, and Oscar Health.
Clearly, Sonny’s ‘say yes’ mentality is paying off.
Note the difference in each of these companies. If a partner can improve Misfit’s current or future functionality, even in the slightest bit, Sonny’s adamant about embracing each opportunity that comes his way.
According to Sonny, saying yes to opportunities, regardless how big or small, forces your team to be more organized, disciplined, and efficient.
He’s a firm believer that if you go into a ripe market you’ll get sales and adapt to the demographic’s needs.
“Just do it, and they’ll tell you. It’s the only way to find out.”
This is how game-changing products are born. By the teams who push the envelope, nearly fail, and then deliver the most comprehensive and intuitive tool in the market.
Misfit’s take on international expansion is especially intriguing. To the founders who are worried about scaling too quickly or managing international orders, Sonny’s advice is straightforward: Don’t worry about scaling. Worry about sales.
While common doctrine prescribes focusing on a niche market Sonny sees the big picture: The 6.9 billion people living outside of the United States.
Focusing on nearly 7 billion people outside of the US hasn’t changed Sonny’s view on running a lean team.
Whatever you do, do not hire more people. Try to hire as few as humanly possible.
Misfit has 40 team members at their headquarters in San Francisco and despite shipping over a million wearables in the fourth quarter, isn’t plan on growing anytime soon.
Based on our conversation, it appears that the lean mentality is a doctrine at Misfit.
Sonny urges his small product teams to experiment as cheaply as humanly possible, and “be really, really open to feedback.”
Whether they’re expanding into a new market or rolling out a new feature, Sonny reads every single customer review. From the first page of Amazon search results alone, that’s over 3,000 comments.
Aside from the newfound freedom to say ‘yes,’ the advice that’ll stay with me from the time I shared with Sonny is the insight he learned from his mentor.
People are usually limited by what they attempt, not by what they are capable off.
With this in mind, consider the goals you set to achieve this year and ask yourself the same question. Could you be doing something bigger?