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How to Deal with Rejection as a Small Business Owner.

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

It's something we've all heard at one time or another. When we asked to stay up past our bedtime, or asked for just one more cookie. And let's not forget the entire spectrum of the dating world where it is a constant driver of anxiety.

Of course, I'm talking about the word no.

Small business owner taking a moment of relaxation out in the woods.

Our focus here is more along the line of the business world. But rejection can hit you just the same no matter what the scenario. So, how exactly does one deal with rejection as a small business owner? Well, as it happens, we can speak from experience!


A tree stump growing around a sign where all you can see is the word no

Dealing with rejection and the word no is difficult for most of us. It can make us feel a sense hopelessness or like a failure, especially with respect to business.

Maybe it's a great new business idea you're trying to get funded, or you're a budding entrepreneur trying to get people to buy your product. No matter who you are or what you're doing, rejection stings. Again, how do we deal with it?

I think it'll help to lay some background. To know that we are speaking from personal experience can help you trust that we do know what we are talking about! ...I've known more than my fair share of rejection.

After graduating with my undergraduate degrees, I decided to go straight into my MBA - I thought it would give me a competitive edge when looking for a job in the future. A year into the program, and about 30 job rejections later, I found out it'd be harder than I thought.

entry level employee making a latte as they work to build their career
Entry to C-Suite Rejection is Everywhere

I had done everything right, too! Or, at least I thought I had... I had internships, volunteered, got involved with extracurriculars, worked multiple part-time positions to make sure I was well-rounded. None of it saved me from rejection - and A LOT of it.

It wasn't until the week of my graduation that I was offered a job. Literally, five days before my graduation. But that's the funny thing about rejection - you really only need one person to take a chance on you and everything else follows.


Without further ado, here are my three biggest tips for dealing with rejection as a small business owner:

1. Build a Good Support System

Surround yourself with others that lift you up and want to see you succeed. I'm lucky enough to have wonderful people in my life that I can depend on to get me through periods of self-doubt and hard times. But sometimes it takes some action to proactively build a reliable support system.

group of friends sitting on a wall on a nice sunny day

Some of the time it can be a matter of trial and error as you discover who you can rely on. Make sure that you have a healthy outlook and don't let anything that brings in negativity just for the sake of drama.

However, it is very important to understand the difference between unhelpful negativity and those who care about us giving some constructive criticism. Perhaps that last rejection had something to do with your pitch or presentation. Having someone working with you to improve yourself and your business can be a powerful form of support.

Find your crew and stay away from those toxic people that suck your energy, bring you down, and are constantly comparing themselves to you.

2. Don't Take it Personally

This is the hardest thing for me when dealing with rejection. I have marshmallow feelings. Meaning, I read into everything and I take EVERYTHING personally. At some point you have to realize that it's not you, it's them, and it probably wouldn't have been a good fit anyways.

a wizard conjuring a spell with fog and a cauldron
Potions class is the hardest by far

"Don't let the muggles get you down" -Ron Weasley

This is one that many small business owners struggle with even outside the subject of rejection. We view our small business as extensions of ourselves or even like a budding child. So those very same defense and emotion mechanisms tend to kick in.

Just remember that sometimes it isn't a good fit for you either. Take a moment to refocus on the fact that it truly is just business.

3. Keep Moving Forward

I believe it was Walt Disney that said, "Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious … and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

This is applicable to many things in life, but it should especially apply in the case of rejection. Rejection shouldn't scare you from trying again, or even trying new things. Explore and be curious. Never let someone else's no, scare you from your yes.

A great example would be those early days of your business (or if you're just starting out now) where you literally had to knock on doors to find customers. Doing that leg work and hearing the word no over and over. Keep moving forward on to the next door. Knock. Repeat.


Remember, it only takes one yes and everything else follows.

This article is written from experience. None of us are immune to rejection. It really comes down to how we handle it as small business owners. Those who can shrug off rejection and keep moving forward are the ones most likely to succeed!

At Out of the Box Advisors, every coach on board here has "been there." We have extensive small business ownership experience. Which is precisely why we have consistently won awards in helping others grow their small businesses!

Schedule a FREE Consultation and learn how we can help grow YOUR small business!

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