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It’s Okay to Say “No for Now”

Research Resources


4 min read · Jul 11

About The Author

Lakshmi Shenoy

As a startup builder, we all feel resource constrained – we could use more time or more cash, but most likely both. When feeling these constraints, you know you have to stay acutely focused on your goals, but it’s hard to say no to offers to help from supporters in your network. This is especially true when the person wanting to help is someone you want to keep engaged in your business. There could be a reason “yes” to the offer, but unless it’s directly related to your business priorities, sometimes saying “no for now” is a better path forward.

An important starting point is to know your priorities for your company. Ideally, you have identified 2-3 milestones that will help you get to the next stage of growth for your company. Filter the offers to help through your milestones. If they are relevant to your milestones, accept the assistance. If not, here are ways to reposition offers to help without losing support:

Example 1: The Poorly Timed Connection


We all have these in our inbox. A friend sends an email to connect you with someone else in your network. It may be because they are in the same industry or perhaps want to get into the world of startups and needs to “pick your brain.” Your friend is well-intentioned and believes there may be mutual benefit from making the connection, but as you look at your priority list, this conversation falls to the bottom.


If the friend asks if they can connect you before including them on the note, be honest and kind. Thank them for thinking of you and let them know that right now connecting in this way is not of priority. Do them a favor and let them know what your priorities are right now in case they can be of help in a different way.

If the friend includes the connection in the email, be gracious about the introduction and let them know that you are not able to chat in the near term due to a few urgent priorities. If you are interested in connecting, let them know when you expect to free up a bit and that you can reconnect at that later point.


When wanting to connect two people, send a double opt-in to ensure that this is relevant and timely introduction for both parties.

Example 2: The Unresponsive Advocate


You meet someone at a networking event who seems very interested in what you’re building and offers to help. You grab their business card and make it a point to follow up that very night. After no response, you follow up the following week. You know they are busy, so you follow up the week after that. It doesn’t make sense because they showed such excitement for your company – why are you being ghosted?

As a startup founder, your company is likely all that’s on your mind, and any conversation will seem like an opportunity. In the moment, it’s easy for someone to mirror your passion, but once they go back to their normal life, their priorities may take hold – and unfortunately, that may not include responding to your follow-up.


Keep staying diligent about following up when you meet someone who may impact your business, but if you’re not getting a response after two follow-ups, send a quick polite note to say that it may not be the best time for them, so they should feel free to reach out when the timing is right. Pausing on good terms is necessary because you’ll stay on their mind and when they see an opportunity to restart the conversation, they can jump back in without guilt.


When meeting another founder, be transparent on where and when you can be supportive. If you’re focused on a huge customer deliverable, let the other party know that you are excited about what they are doing but are tied up for the next month and schedule a quick catch-up once things are a little calmer.

Example 3: The Offer to Help When You Don’t Need It


If you’re like most startup founders, you likely receive a lot of inbound offers to help your business from people in your network. These offers are coming from individuals or teams that have a service offering they hope is relevant to your needs. But, you’re limited on time, money, and have other priorities, which all mean that it may not be the right time to be pitched, even if it’s from someone you know.


Keep a running list of the offers to help for yourself – maybe it is someone who can offer CRM support, or QA testing, or branding expertise. Let the person offering to help know that you have put them on the list you keep and will reach out for help when the timing is right.


As a startup, you’re always aiming to sell or acquire new users. Stay self-aware and realize when your pitch to someone else isn’t quite right with timing. These are the opportunities to build a drip campaign so that you’re top of mind once they feel the pain point you solve.

Ultimately, supporting one other requires thoughtfulness and some work to be both relevant and timely. Talk offline with the other party before acting to maximize the ROI of your good intentions.

At Embarc Collective, one of our organizational values is Open Opportunities. We strive to open doors for our entrepreneurs to help transform their visions into reality. If you’re a Florida-based startup interested in joining a community that focuses on helping you with goals specific to your business, consider joining Embarc Collective’s membership.

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