Fashion Business Owner Musings: Clear Questions Will Get Clear Answers

spacerLet’s talk about asking questions. Specifically, I want to talk about how we ask questions.

I know that I’ve talked about getting specific with your questions before. But I wanted to build on the point with more detail, just to make sure you’re getting it.

When you’re running a fashion business, no matter the stage, you have questions. Lots of them.

There’s always something new to learn that makes asking questions a daily occurrence. Which means you need to get good at how you ask your questions so that you actually get answers.

The thing is, there are a lot of people out there who have done or are doing what you want to do. They work in fashion or have launched a small business, or have specific experience in things like marketing, sales, and business operations.

And talking to these people, if even for just a short time, can be so beneficial as you work to launch and grow your business.

You may meet these people at a conference or a tradeshow, or maybe they are a speaker at a virtual event and they offer a Q+A segment. Or maybe someone you know in your non-business life offers an intro to someone that could really help you.

Whatever the way, you get access to this person for a short period of time and you want to make sure that you ask your question(s) in a way that makes it easy for the person to help you.

But a lot of times that’s not what happens.

What I see happen too often is questions asked without much thought put into how they’re being asked.

And the end result is that the one asking is left feeling like they’re not really getting the help they need.

But here’s the thing . . .

If you’re not getting clear answers, you’re probably not asking clear questions. 

Here are some of the common question-asking techniques I see that don’t work:

  • Long, run-on, explanations preceding the question. The listener is either bored, confused, or out of time by the time you get to the question.
  • Laying out what you think the answer is in the question. Think of this as leading the witness type stuff like, “Don’t you think we should do it this way?”
  • Open-ended questions like “how do I grow my business?”. Questions like this are such a waste. They’re so broad and so vague that the listener will give you a vague and broad answer in response. Rightfully so.

Here’s how to ask questions the right way:

Keep it short and very specific.

That’s it.

I know, you’re thinking that there is almost always an explanation you need to share before your question. You need to communicate the scenario. You need to make sure the person has all the facts.

I’m telling you that won’t work.

When you have the attention of someone who can help you, that person is most likely busy. They have a business of their own to run. And while they are happy to spare some of that time for a fellow entrepreneur, they expect thoughtfulness.

Listen to this . . .

I pitched my line to four stores. The one I really want hasn’t gotten back to me, and it’s been weeks. I’ve followed up a few times but still nothing from them. I’m going to keep trying, but in the meantime one of the other boutiques I pitched is interested but they only want to start with carrying a few pieces of the collection AND they are only 6 blocks away from the boutique I really want. I kind of feel like I need to hold off and keep going after the first store because I know that my collection will sell so well there. This other store is not as much of my target market, but who knows, it could still be good. Do you think I should just do that? I mean, skip the second store and keep going after the first?


Should I sell to two boutiques within a mile of one another, risking the possibility that I could lose one?

And then be quiet. Let the person you’re asking say their piece. They will likely offer you some points to weigh and scenarios to consider and share what they would do (or have done) if they were in your situation.

You should never “feel bad” that you have a million questions when it comes to your business. We all do.

That’s why communities exist, so that everyone can help each other by answering questions. But just because it is expected that you will have questions, doesn’t mean that you’ll get the answers you’re looking for.

And one major thing you can do to increase the chances that you will get the answers you need, is to practice the art of asking questions. Learn to ask them in a way that makes it as easy as possible for people to give you truly helpful answers.

Lots of love and encouragement,

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Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

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