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Benefits of asking the right questions

By People Reporter
Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Asking questions is one of the most powerful ways to accelerate and improve your business and marketing.

In the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness”, Will Smiths’ character Chris Gardner, watches a gentleman park a beautiful red Ferrari. He walks up and asks two questions. “What do you do and how do you do it?”

Gardner can see the results of the man’s efforts, and while complimenting the nice car, asks the right questions.

He wanted the car, but rather than simply wish for it he asks what it takes to get such a car. Those simple questions changed the trajectory of his life as he pursued a different career that eventually allowed him to buy a Ferrari.

It would have been easier to ask, “How much does it cost?” The answer to which could yield one of two responses.

Because the price is high you could say to yourself, “I could never afford that,”, and move on without any further thought or challenge. The second possible response is just as dangerous. “How can I afford that?”

Caroline, a friend of mine, told me about the day she realised she was driving a similar car, in price, to the owner of the business she was employed in.

Now there is nothing wrong with owning a nice car and in fact, I want you to create enough wealth to afford all the things you so desire. 

The issue for Caroline is that she had never asked the right questions. When she asked how can I afford the car the answer was simple. I just need to take a loan and I’ll have the car.

When she eventually did the calculation she found that the car was less than one per cent of her boss’s net worth (everything he owns).

In her case, the car was about 60 per cent of her net worth (everything she owns) and for the next three years, it would be tied up in the loan she took. 

You can’t see what it takes to become wealthy from the results of wealth. If you saw Caroline and her boss driving out of the office you would think they were on the same level but if you asked the questions Gardner asked the difference would be evident. 

The business Caroline’s boss owns, bought, maintains and fuels his car. She had to take a loan and fund the car out of her pocket.

When she realised this, she could now make choices about her investments without feeling the pressure to keep up with her boss.

She kept the car but decided to put more effort into building her wealth rather than simply looking wealthy.

Have you been asking the right questions to the right people? I have been thinking about what makes some businesses successful whereas others fail and so I am spending hours every week talking to entrepreneurs. Who do you need to talk to?

Find time with people in your network or simply start reading autobiographies or watching documentaries about the people you respect and admire.

— Waithaka Gatumia

The writer is the CEO at Centonomy