The Most Powerful Word: No

Saying no is not a fun thing to do.

Some of the most striking memories I have of TRIBUS company meetings were those hosted by our then “Director of First Impressions,” Jackie Altstadt. She has since moved and become the Creative Experience Manager at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Good Life Group, but her improv exercises and her “Yes, and…” lessons have made a lasting impression on how I speak to others. The point of the “Yes, and…” phrase is to leave the conversation open and evolving instead of shutting another person’s input down by saying the alternative: no.

In the software world, when you want to build a new website that solves your needs in a fixed amount of time and on a predetermined budget, it turns out that “no” can be a much more useful word than “yes.”

Your demands must be balanced with reality.

Think of your project requirements as a tug-of-war game. It’s nearly impossible to satisfy all three components in one swoop: scope, time and budget. You can build the features that you want in a fixed amount of time, but your costs may increase to do so. You can remain on budget and get all of your project requirements, but it may take longer than you expected. You can hit the deadline and cost requirements, but you may have to cut some of your functionality.

The last option is my favorite, and the method I almost always recommend. I find that clients will be much happier in the long run if my Project Managers can deliver a build on time and on budget.

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Navigate the website process maze by saying no to anything that takes you off track

What does saying ‘no’ to scope mean?

We don’t build a “one size fits all” model — we build custom projects. Naturally, that means that there is no “perfect” project scope that would be the right choice for all of our customers. The best thing that each brokerage can do is to define project goals up front, and remind yourselves of those goals constantly. If a request doesn’t directly satisfy the goal, then it should either get cut from the project or tabled for later.

Your goals should explain the purpose for the project and help prioritize all the little details so that you stay focused on what truly matters for you. Your goals should be as unique as your brokerage, so don’t copy what others are doing just to try to be “right.”

Focus on no more than three goals for the initial project.

As you develop your goals, it helps to define exactly why you’re building a new platform. The options are endless, but here are a few to get you thinking.

  • Brand Recognition (read more on revamping your brokerage brand)
    • Cement a new brand
    • Build recognition for an existing brand
    • Update your image to appeal to a new demographic
    • Ensure your brand is associated with expertise in your niche
  • Competitive Advantage
    • Update an old platform to meet the “status quo”
    • Appeal to new agent recruits
    • Satisfy the requests of your existing agents
    • Develop something unique that sets you apart from others in your market (learn how to tell your story)
  • Relationship Building
    • Offer an easy-to-use system that e-leads willingly return to
    • Automate follow-ups so that contacts don’t get forgotten
    • Reinforce agent/team branding with online communications
    • Put reviews online to establish credibility with new potential clients

All of your goals must be extremely specific:
“Build _____ for _____ because _____”

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I hate to burst your bubble, but no successful project ever began with goals like, “Create a site that solves all our needs,” “Outrank Zillow” or “Have the best real estate site in our area.” It just won’t happen. Sorry.

Follow your goals and say no to other options to remain on track

Saying no builds trust.

At TRIBUS, we wholeheartedly embrace the “MVP” approach. MVP means “Minimum Viable Product,” and that mindset is incredibly helpful while you’re trying to stick to your goals.

Ask yourself, ‘What is the bare minimum functionality
we need to accomplish our goal(s)?’

Be tough with yourself on this, because it will force you to focus. Once you establish your MVP, we can get started building it! The amazing thing about sticking to an MVP is that it opens up so many possibilities later once you get closer to launch — this is where iterations come in.

Want to add more functionality in a second phase? We can, because you probably aren’t over budget.

Want to change the focus a bit? No problem, because we didn’t waste countless hours on something that you want to change later on.

Want to launch your MVP and collect real input from your team before you define the next phase? Perfect, that’s music to our ears!



Of course no one likes saying no, but we understand that it’s a very necessary part of this process. It would be much worse if you have to report to your team that you’ve blown through the budget only to end up with a project that’s pretty, but doesn’t really meet your needs.

Declining options is tough, so let us guide your through this process so that you can stay on track. From years of experience, we know it’s the right thing to do to ensure you love the end result.


As a second generation REALTOR, Katie comes to TRIBUS after working for a major franchise brokerage and a prominent custom home builder in metro Atlanta, GA. While selling homes, she realized she had a passion for helping agents establish a meaningful web presence and a build CRM that worked. Since then she's become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and graduated from a UX program, all while staying grounded in real estate technology. Her background in the industry and her training in psychology have paved the way for her current user experience focused role, where she leads the product team at TRIBUS.

Katie has moderated and spoken at various events including the RESO Technology Summit and Hacker Connect - a tech intensive session of Inman Connect.
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