Shmulik Fishman is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Argyle, the leading employment data platform that provides companies access to user-permissioned records in real-time.

Shmulik Fishman

The Power of Knowing When to Say “No”


As a CEO, ‘no’ has become one of my favorite words. Let me explain:

If you’re building a company you’ll want to talk to everyone to try to craft solutions. That’s great to come up with a thesis for the company you want to build, but as you’re building you’ll need to start prioritizing, and just as importantly, you’ll need to start to deprioritize.

This is where the power of no comes in. Somehow ‘no’ has become a dirty word. Our culture and work ethics have programmed us to take on more and more; after all, we often measure our productivity by output (even to the detriment of quality).

Saying no helps set boundaries for you, your company, and your colleagues. It also clearly sets your priorities and helps define what you need to focus your attention on. It’s that focus, getting really good at one thing, that helps companies break from the pack. But saying no without intent can be just as meaningless and messy as saying yes to everything.

You need to say no to almost everything so you can focus on the few things you’re saying yes to. Clients, your team, and your investors will always come to you with ideas they are excited about, but saying “no,” and giving a reason for it, is the only way to make gains on the projects you are focused on.

You’ll feel more confident in saying no if you understand why you’re saying it, and you’ll set the tone and direction for those around you. Maybe it falls outside of companies guidelines or ethos, maybe it’s something you’ve done in the past and know it doesn’t work or maybe you’re just starting out and you cannot master all solutions at once. Whatever your reason, just be sure to have one. No is only powerful with intent. Otherwise, it becomes the dreaded “because I said so.”

While it may be hard at first, ultimately, people will respect you for it – and they’ll stay with you because of it. It’s hard to do, but eventually, you’ll get positive feedback, and you’ll get better at what you do by understanding what it is you don’t.