A No is Always a Yes as well – Important for Successful Biobanking

A No is Always a Yes as well - Important for Successful Biobanking

Welcome back to my column. I look forward to your questions and comments at daniel@biobanking.com.

Today it’s about saying no to become successful.

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, is said to have once said: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything”.

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It is not easy to say no to requests. We are afraid of the reaction of the people we actually don’t want to disappoint. Will people still talk to us and ever ask again? Because we all know isolated cases where exactly that has happened. Practice termination, accusations, and no further contact. But in most cases, people understand that you cannot or do not want to say yes to everything. A clear “no, unfortunately I can’t come” is much better and more honest than a noncommittal “I’ll try to come”, where everyone already knows that it will not work anyway.

Our biggest worry when saying no is that we might miss an opportunity. This is a real risk when we say no. However, at the same time, we gain something very valuable: we gain time. Time for what we have to do because we have agreed to do it. So, if you feel you do not have time for anything, I recommend you start saying no now.

Time management has a short-term and a long-term component. Short-term is what I just said. You have the feeling that you do not have time. Then it is relatively easy to say no. The situation is more difficult and challenging when you commit to something that is far in the future. For one thing, it is not so easy to correctly estimate the time required for a project that may not even be precisely defined yet. And more importantly, we do not know if we will have enough time for this particular project in the future. Because in the meantime we might have agreed to other projects.

If, on the other hand, we say no early on, then we are signalling to potential clients or work partners: “We know that our time is limited, that is why we are concentrating on a few projects. But what we tackle, we do right.” This may make us unpopular at first, because people are disappointed about a rejection, but in the long run they pay us respect. The ability to say no is what separates the professional from the amateur. The veteran from the beginner.

A no is therefore always a yes. Because when we reject new requests, offers, ideas, contacts, we are conversely committing ourselves to the requests, offers, ideas and contacts to which we once said yes. Therefore, saying no is not a sign of disinterest or even arrogance, but of reliability, loyalty and perseverance.

But saying no all the time is not helpful either. If you are more at the beginning of your career, you should say yes as often as possible. It is good to try out a lot at the beginning of your professional life and also to gain contradictory experiences. But after a few years you should know what you want. Then saying no also makes sense. Because you cannot always start something new. You cannot always hope that something better will come along. After about seven years, you should know who you are (and who you are not), what you can do (and what you cannot), what you lack (and what you do not). And that is what you should focus on.

So, what does all this have to do with biobanking?

Remember that I have said at every opportunity that every biobank should look for business opportunities and needs an individual business plan. What good is it to know about the opportunity but then say no when someone approaches you? However, consider the following: For example, if a researcher asks you for samples and data from your biobank, you should only agree if a) you also have these samples and data and b) you can also provide them within a reasonable time.

Serious business planning, including advertising based on it, also ensures that you are prepared for the two aspects of such a request mentioned above. This means that you have the samples and data you want (a). So, say no to collecting more samples and data if you do not know if there are enough researchers in your field who want them. And you must not only have the samples and data you want, but also the staff to provide them in time (b). If you already have enough samples, you should also say no to storing them haphazardly. As a consequence, think carefully about how you will use the samples and data stored in your biobank. You can use them for internal long-term quality control, for example. But remember that you do not need thousands of samples for this. Say no to unnecessary samples and data that can no longer be used. Do not waste capacity on new samples.

You need a clear focus. In this way, a no is always a yes as well.

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Dr. Simeon-Dubach is the owner of medservice, biobanking consulting & service in Walchwil, Switzerland. He has been working in the biobanking field for over 15 years, focused on business development/planning, governance, standards/best practices and sustainability of biobanks, and collaboration between science and biomedical industries. He has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles on these topics. He coaches biobankers to realize the full potential of a biobank and to be sustainable. He chairs the ISBER Standards Committee, which oversees updates to ISBER best practices and develops tools to improve and standardize modern biobanking. He is also the section editor for Biobanking Management in the journal “Biopreservation and Biobanking” and member of the editorial board of the journal “Synergy”.