Can I get a “No?!”

When I start to get frazzled I hear my mother in my head saying, “If you don’t value your time, no one else will.” As women, I feel that, at times, we suffer from the “Wonder Woman Complex” of being able to do it all, and often times to our detriment. We can be fearful of the societal response of saying “no” and I’m here to tell you it’s OK to do it!

When I served as National President of Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), my predecessor, Angie Shay, programmed us all so that when a decision was to be made that would impact the organization, if it didn’t engage members or generate revenue, then we shouldn’t be doing it. This made decisions very black and white and easy to move initiatives forward.

I feel like this can translate to our lives and can help quiet the noise when faced with the decision of how to spend our time and talents. When we say yes to everything, we overextend ourselves and, typically, if something is going to have to give, more often than not, it’s you.

One of the things I spent time figuring out this year is my “hourly worth.” So when I make a decision to give my all for something that isn’t going to generate revenue for myself or my company, then I hit “pause” and analyze if this is something that is truly worth it. If I decide that it is a cause I’m truly passionate about, something I enjoy doing or someone I want to spend time with, then I jump in with two feet. If it’s not, I respectfully decline to participate or see if there is a way to check the box in a fraction of the time.

One example of this shift for me has been with how I approach networking. I always think it’s important to connect with others that someone has taken the time to introduce me to. However, after you play the game for a while I think you can size up who is going to be a good connector for you and who isn’t.

If I know going into it that it seems like it will be more of a “social” connection, then instead of taking the time to meet for coffee or lunch, I schedule a 30-minute call to learn about each other’s businesses. If I’m completely wrong and there is way more synergy than I anticipated, we can always schedule more time to build on the networking relationship with a face-to-face meeting. With face-to-face networking meetings, I have three principal rules I live by:

  1. If you “no-show” me, unless for a grave emergency, I will never meet with you again because not only did you think my time wasn’t worth anything, you took money out of my pocket because I could have been spending that time generating revenue for my company.
  2. I’ll meet you half way, meaning we meet at a place that is in between our offices as to be respectful of each other’s time. I have found that people LOVE this because it’s showing them upfront that I value their time, too.
  3. Three strikes and you are out. I don’t care who you are or what the valid excuses are, if you have had to cancel our meeting three times then I don’t schedule a fourth attempt. I have always believed that like minds attract like minds and there is just something in the universe that is saying that we are not destined to meet. In the back of my head I would always think if you did this to me, you’ll do it to my client and I can’t risk that.

We live in an insanely fast-paced, techno-charged world these days. Everyone wants a piece of you. Just make sure that when you take a moment to reflect, that you have something left over for you and where you truly want to be.



Susan CombsSusan Combs founded New York-based insurance brokerage Combs & Company in 2005, where as CEO she oversees all aspects of the business and serves as the quarterback on all specialty risk and expert witness duties.

For more about Susan, please read Susan Combs: Candid and determined


  1. I was once asked to be a mentor by a young lady but she kept blowing me off. I wanted to help her, but at a point I just had to stop any attempts to meet with her because she was clearly not ready for a mentor.

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