On an average day, I probably get asked hundreds of questions. Questions via email, questions when I’m chatting with clients over Skype, questions from opposing counsel, or just questions at a social gathering when people learn what I do.
After three years of hearing these questions, very few surprise me. But last month I got a powerful question that I’d never consciously logged on my list before. I got asked,
What questions should I be asking that I’m not?
I found this question brilliant and have already put it in my arsenal.
We aren’t experts in everything
The reason that I love this question is because while we do our research and due diligence, we aren’t experts in everything. (Even though, you like me, might try to convince yourself that this is not the fact from time to time.)
While we do our research and due diligence, we aren’t experts in everything.
We bring on team members to utilize their expertise. We hire a CPA for his expertise in tax, a lawyer for her expertise in law, a PR rep for her expertise in getting us press. And our experts know the pitfalls, the related issues, and the scope of what we are taking on.
Helps our experts
The other reason I love this question, is because it requires our team members to make sure we understand every part of the decision. Sometimes when you are an expert in an area, you forget that everyone else doesn’t know this material backwards and forwards.
Sometimes when you are an expert, you forget that everyone else doesn’t know this material backwards and forwards.
So when clients don’t ask about something, you assume they don’t ask because they already know the answer; not because they have no clue that it even exists. Asking this question requires our team members to stop assuming that we know and start explaining the whole process to us. It makes them back up and make sure we are both on the same page about how this decision will impact our business.
This powerful question in action
A good illustration of this is a recent LLC dissolution I assisted with. In the process of talking about the dissolution process, we discovered that when the LLC was formed the owner never understood that California imposes an $800 franchise tax on LLCs each calendar year. She’d had her LLC for several years, which means that this tax had never been paid. (Luckily I was not the attorney who set up her LLC). I’m hoping that if she had asked this question way back when, her attorney would have said, “Yes, we haven’t talked about how to keep your LLC legit!” And gone into an explanation of how to do that and told her about the franchise tax.
Another situation that this topic came up in was in Office Hours. One of the participants was dealing with a copycat. To deal with the copycat she had written a cease and desist letter and the copycat’s attorney had written a response.
She casually mentioned that she had a draft to the attorney prepared. Once we had answered everyone’s questions, we had a little bit of time remaining. I asked the woman dealing with the copycat if she would be open to us brainstorming about what kinds of information she should and shouldn’t include in her response letter because I suspected that this was the issue that she should have been asking questions about, rather than some of the details we had discussed. As it turns out my hunch was correct and her response letter contained lots of emotional arguments (which don’t fair well with attorneys) and included extraneous information that didn’t support her case.
How you can easily apply this today
- Pick up the phone, walk across the hall, or send an email to one employee or expert and ask them this powerful question. I bet you’ll learn something interesting about your business that will help you in the long term.
What did you learn? I’d love to hear in the comments below.