Episode 068: If You Want Better Answers, Ask Better Questions
Hey, y’all, welcome back to the podcast. This topic has been weighing on my heart lately, and I felt called to share it with you. To get better answers, we need to ask better questions. I am not only talking about asking your clients better questions but also some questions to ask yourself as a business owner. The quality of your life oftentimes depends on the number of difficult conversations you're willing to have. And that includes the ones with yourself, not just other people.
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Michelle Lynne began her interior design career after spending more than two decades working in Corporate America. She began in the home staging arena and has since built a successful, award-winning, full-service interior design firm, employing talented designers and serving clients across the country.
In the summer of 2018, Michelle began focusing on a big gap she saw missing in the interior design industry: teaching interior designers how to run the business of an interior design business. She now engages in private coaching and leads an in-depth, 12-month group coaching program, both options focus on teaching designers profitable processes, systems, strategies, and mindset needed to run a streamlined, profitable interior design firm.
Her motto is simple: we rise by lifting others.
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Michelle Lynne: Welcome to Designed for the Creative Mind, a podcast for interior designers and creative entrepreneurs to run their business with purpose, efficiency, and passion. Because, while every design is different, the process should remain the same. Prepare yourself for some good conversations with amazing guests, a dash of Jesus, and a touch of the woowoo, and probably a swear word or two. If you're ready to stop trading your time for money and enjoy your interior design business, you are in the right place. I'm your host, Michelle Lynne.
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Michelle Lynne: Hey, y'all welcome back to the podcast. It has been a while since I've done a solo episode, but that's what we're doing today. We're talking about if you want better answers, ask better questions. And I'm going unscripted, but my intention is to discuss questions with your clients, but also questions as a business owner.
So let's just dig right in and talk about if you want better answers, ask better questions when it comes to your project. The information that we get from our clients is a lot of what drives the design. What side of the bed do they sleep on? What do they need in their nightstand? You know, why don't they like the way this sofa looks? Or just the details that are going to provide a result for your design are oftentimes generated by the questions that you ask the client. So a lot of times that's going to be function, but it's also going to be form.
Back, gosh, quite a few years ago, and I was just talking to Debbie and Megan, we did a podcast, I don't know if it's coming out before or after this episode, but we were talking about a lot of the interviews that we do with clients now are so much more detailed than the lack of interviews that we did, I don't know, five years ago, six years ago. And I asked them why. Why did we not ask better questions? And a lot of the reasons we didn't is because it felt like we were already supposed to know the answers.
So I'm here to tell you that you're not supposed to know the answers. It is your client's home. They oftentimes don't know what they want, don't know what they don't want, so we are here to guide them along that journey. But your designs will be better if you ask better questions. If you have any sort of insecurity thinking that you're supposed to know, whatever, like insert, whatever here, then give yourself the permission to be more of an investigator than you are right now. If you are asking a ton of questions and you're getting a lot of information, rock on. Continue finding how you can drill down even further for your client's wants and needs. Because if you drill down further and you uncover things they didn't even know that they wanted or needed, not only will you be elevating your designs, because they're going to challenge you with something that they want or need that you're maybe not sure how to deliver, but you're also going to provide a better reputation and referrals from that. Because solving problems is what we do. The bigger the problem, the more excited the client should be, and the more they're going to be screaming your praises from the rooftops. Of course, that's not all that we do, the only reason we do it, and so forth, but asking better questions will get you better answers.
So let's start with that, with your clients. Give yourself permission as you're going through the sales process, as you're going through once they've already approved and signed your contract, drill down further, ask more questions. Don't feel like it is a lack of anything. It's not a lack of by asking questions. You're not a mind reader. Okay? You're not a mind reader. Your spouse isn't a mind reader. It's the same thing. When you get frustrated when somebody's not meeting your expectations. It's probably because you haven't shared your expectations with them. It's going to be the same with your clients, you're gonna have fewer revisions, if you ask them more questions. And however, you need to go about doing that, whether it is pen to paper, or if it is an online questionnaire, or if it is pulling out images and just sharing with them, Hey, tell me what you liked about this picture, what you don't like about this picture. It should technically be a combination of all of that. Bring over a pile of fabrics and ask which ones do you like, which ones don't you like, because they might have a different version of modern than you do. Modern, Contemporary, European, like all the things might be a little bit different. So by getting that detail and that level, and think about this, too, if they're paying you a bucket of money, they want you to know as much as you possibly can, in order to create that design. The more money you pay, the more attention you want, the more detail, the more thoroughness you want. So don't hesitate.
So that's just the first thing. And that just popped into my head after we were recording the podcast with Debbie and Megan, my designers at ML Interiors Group. What I wanted to share with you, in addition to that is the same thing, if you want better answers, ask better questions. And it's going to be of yourself in this instance. So we talked about the client and the design, now I want to talk to you as a business owner, but also as a human.
When you're feeling like nothing is working, as a business owner, it's easy, easy, easy to just have high highs and low lows. It's a natural part of being a business owner, I'm telling you that right now, having done this since 2008, holy cow. When you are feeling like nothing is working, I ask myself a handful of questions. That's what I want to share with you. And I want to share with you that normally when I asked these questions of myself, it is in the form of journaling. So I do recommend writing these things down, and not just answering the questions in your head. Because once you start writing out the answer to these questions that I'm gonna share with you, it's amazing how it just starts pouring out, your answers start pouring out. You find different emotions that you didn't know were there because you are being very intentional about writing things down and you are very focused. If you're in your car, and you're driving, and you're thinking these questions through, yes, you're focused, but you're also focused on not ramming the person in front of you or making sure that you're not running red lights and all the things that you focus on when you drive. Even though it's natural habitat for us now to be in our cars, it's important that you spend some time really digging into yourself. And heck, you might find that you ask yourself the same question over and over, and it continues to evolve.
Okay, so what do I mean by that? Let's talk about, you know, oftentimes, it's your top-level fears or worries, are kind of a symptom of something else. So, if you're feeling like nothing's working, or if you're feeling a deep level of anxiety, or you're just frustrated, or whatever the case may be, it doesn't matter. But ask yourself, what's really bothering me? Are you upset because the client is asking for a variety of revisions? Well, if that's the case, is that a symptom of something else? Could it be that you, if they're asking for these revisions that you knew that you should have asked them more questions, like we just talked about? Is it an underlying or concern that you don't know the order in which to do things? Is it, what's really bothering me, is the question.
So for example, if you are beating yourself up because you didn't make a solid profit margin on your on your project? Is that what's really bothering you? Or do you feel like you are out of integrity with your finances? Keep asking yourself these questions. What's really bothering me? Because what's really bothering you is oftentimes, like I said, a symptom. If you're sick, you've got a temperature Okay, so when you're getting agitated, consider that a temperature because something's really bothering you. Ask yourself that multiple times. What bothers me is not going to be what bothers you. And if it is the same thing that bothers you, well, obviously, it could be the same thing if we're not making enough profit margin, but we're going to feel it differently. And there might be something that we can adjust about it.
So that's the next question is, what can I change? So the first question is what's really bothering me? The second question is, what can I change? You are the creator of your everything. You are the creator in your world. Now, y'all know that I believe in Jesus and God, so He is the Creator, right? But in your world, you are the creator and anything that you don't like is pretty much up to you to change. So if you're not selling furniture to your clients and giving yourself a solid margin, what can you change? If you're feeling out of integrity with your finances because you're not making enough money, what can you change? Dude, mark up your furniture higher. And then if you can't do that, well, then what you can do because you're like, well, my clients just don't understand it. Well, explain it to them.
So again, this goes back to what's really bothering me. Are you mad at the client because there's a lot of revisions, because you didn't ask enough questions, because things are too expensive? Like, why? What's really bothering you? And then when you really kind of narrow that down, ask yourself, well, what can I change? And then what I love to do as well, is to take a few minutes, because that's kind of heavy. So if you're sitting there and you're journaling and you've got your cup of coffee, or whatever works for you, and you're journaling, and you're writing these things out, that can be very overwhelming. That can take some time and some energy, and just kind of like punch you in the gut. So then stop and say, okay, well, what do I feel good about? What do I feel good about? And take some time to be grateful. And again, you're writing all these things out? Okay, so, what's really bothering me? What can I change? And then what I feel good about?
Okay, let's just take a minute to infuse this moment with happiness. When the world feels really, really heavy, really hard, difficult, overwhelming, you're not thinking about all the good things. You're thinking about all that weight that's on your shoulders, all the stress, all the gray hairs that are popping. So make a list and maybe even write out why you feel good about it. Like, I feel good about the view out my window is beautiful. I feel good about my puppy dog sitting on my foot. I feel good about, you know, how far I've come in business. Like, it doesn't have to be related to what you're feeling bad about. It could because that's also a great time to toot your own horn.
And here's another fun thing. Here's a bonus. If you have some fun music, better yet a theme song, this is when you can crank it up, dance around, and have some fun. Yeah, you're gonna look like a dork. But who cares? Who cares? You're gonna look like a dork. If nobody's in the room with you, you're gonna look like a dork to yourself, you're gonna feel like a dork. But you know what's gonna happen? Is you're only going to feel like a dork for a couple minutes, and then you're going to be groovin. So there is something physiological about cranking up some music and just moving. Whether you want to do dance moves, or whether you just want to run in place, or you want to do jumping jacks, or whatever, you need to get out of your head about the bad things. Basically, what you're doing is you're creating some whitespace. Think about how important whitespace is in a design. A little bit of neutral space. So you're gonna go from heavy, and then you're gonna go to light, and then you're resetting yourself. Okay?
Find a theme song. I've got two. They're really, really old. I'll share them with you. And then I'll feel like a dork. And I'll be setting this this example for you. So I have two theme songs. One is Nina Simone, I Feel Good. Michael Bublé has redone it and somebody else has redone it. But my original one is Nina Simone because she's just so soulful. Another one is Prince, Baby I'm a Star. See, I told you I was gonna date myself because wasn't that like out of the 80s? Like 1986 or seven or something like that. I think that was out of the Purple Rain genre. Anyway, so I can turn on either one of those and I am automatically just like, these are my theme songs. And y'all, I know there's some better theme songs these days. I think Lizzo's got some fun ones, but find your own. Find your own, something that just makes you move and groove and feel happy inside. So remembering that you have some really freaking great friends or, you know, some amazing clients that really do appreciate you, a wonderful spouse or the chocolate ice cream that you're having for dessert or whatever. It doesn't matter. So just remember the good things.
The next thing I would suggest asking yourself, and again, you're asking better questions, so you can get better answers, is going to be what's the truth? Okay, what is the truth? So you want to be moving past all your bullshit. And you want to be saying, okay, what's really bothering me? What can I change? What I feel good about? Take some time and believe me, if this is the first time you do something like this, it's going to feel weird. And it's going to take a while and you're not going to feel like you did the quote unquote, exercise, right. But I'm assuring you that you will, and you have and you did.
So being truthful. And being honest with ourselves is sometimes the hardest thing, because sometimes we just bury things or sometimes, we hide behind things. But once you acknowledge that, the freedom that you're going to have is going to be overwhelming and outstanding. So what I mean by this is, let's say you're not making enough profit margin. The truth could be that you're spending too much money. It might not be that you are not marking furniture up enough. Or it might be that you are not charging enough, and you know it inherently, but you don't know how to fix it. Or it's just overwhelming. It might be that you need to hire a business coach. I happen to know a really good program called The Interior Design Business Bakery, if you are. Shameless plug there. But if you're in integrity, with who you know you can be and what you want to do, and the knowledge that you know how to do it, or maybe it's the knowledge that you don't know how to do it as well as you thought you did. Or it could just be something like, Dude, you know what? I spent way too much money this last month, I just, you know, put my money in magazines, advertisements, websites, you know, or I just went and, you know, bought a lot of stuff for my own house through the business. It can be a variety of different things that leaves you feeling like you're out of integrity with who you know you are.
So that's the next question. This is the last one, is who do I choose to be? And there's a lot of power behind this. There's a lot of power behind this. Who do I choose to be? What do you want to accomplish? And what are you willing to do to become that person? What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? And what are you willing to do in order to be that person? I had to think about that a second time. And what I mean by that is we're often focused on the doing of things. So you know what you need to do, but who do you need to be? So for example, what is your identity? Is your identity a badass businesswoman? Now, this can apply to anything. It could be, you know, am I an amazing wife? Am I an amazing mom? Like, what do I need? Who do I need to be? Who do I need to show up as? Your identity.
If somebody offers you a cigarette, do you take it just because they hand it to you? If you're not a smoker, you won't, because you don't identify as being a smoker. If somebody hands you a, let's just talk smoking and drinking, okay, if somebody hands you like a shot of whiskey, shot of bourbon or something, and you're not a bourbon drinker, you're going to turn it down. Who do you identify as? Do you identify as an individual who's willing to have difficult conversations? Do you identify as a person who, you know, bends over as a people pleaser? Maybe you identify as a people pleaser. Is that who you want to be? Is that who you choose to be? So when those conversations come up, when those decisions come up, when those boundaries come up, is that who you choose to be, a people pleaser? If you recognize it. Remember, remember what's really bothering me? What can I change? What's the truth? Okay, so the truth might be you're a people pleaser, but who do you choose to be? I choose to be a badass businesswoman. I can be a people pleaser, or I can be a badass businesswoman. Choose one, you can't be both. It doesn't mean you need to be a jerk about it. You can still make people really, really happy without bending your own boundaries, without breaking them. You know, just having them and then enforcing them. So who do you choose to be?
Now, if you are making different choices because of who you're going to be, like, you show up as your best self, like, identify who your best self is, and then show up as her. If you don't know how to do that, then stop and think, okay, my future self is, and then maybe give her these traits that you want to start embodying. And then start doing that. If you want to be, you know, competing in a fitness competition, you're not going to eat donuts. So when that donut comes across the, somebody brings you a doughnut, you have a choice, you can say, Oh, that looks so good and eat three of them. Or you can say no, I'm going to be in a fitness competition. I'm not going to eat that, or whatever. Okay, whatever. Like I said, this is totally an unscripted podcast, it was just weighing on my heart. And actually, I'm covering some of this at the IDS National Conference in a couple of weeks, so it gives me an opportunity to kind of get it out of my head and be able to say it in person. But this is just a part of my presentation. So if you're thinking about going to IDS, this isn't the whole thing.
So anyway, those are the questions. What's really bothering me? What can I change? And then give yourself a break. What I feel good about? You can get up and have a dance break, okay. Just five minutes, two minutes, just two minutes. Or just get up and move, you don't even have to have music on. Let's not complicate it. And then, what's the truth? So drill down, and what is the truth? Because oftentimes, it's a bullshit story and it's not the truth. You have to be brave enough to acknowledge that you're probably full of it sometimes. And it's easy to slide it past ourselves, but we're hurting ourselves the most. So what is the truth? And then finally, who do I choose to be? Because babe, you've got the power to step into your own power. Oftentimes, we play small, don't play small. But at the end of the day, when things are feeling messy and heavy, and maybe you realize that you're not being true to yourself, give yourself the grace, acknowledge it, and move on. Do not beat yourself up, do not give yourself a case of the shoulds. I should have done this, I should have done that, I should have done this. Quit shoulding all over yourself. Give yourself the grace to acknowledge that you're human. As a business owner, we are not working in the operating room, nobody's going to die on our shift. So don't take yourself so seriously that anything is going to be an obstacle that can't be overcome. Maybe acknowledge that what you did didn't work and don't do it again.
So those are the questions. What's really bothering me? What can I change? What do I feel good about? What's the truth? And who do I choose to be? Try it, try it. And yes, all five of these questions need to go hand in hand. You might spend more time on one than on the other. But do them, do them as an exercise, sit down and write it down. I promise you; you're going to feel so much better when you're done. It's going to be, it's difficult, okay. But the quality of your life oftentimes depends on the number of difficult conversations you're willing to have. And that includes conversations with yourself, not just other people.
So that's all I got today. Other than the shameless plug for our Interior Design Business Success Summit, which is going to be October 12th, 13th, and 14th. This is 2022. I'm not sure when you're listening to it. But more than likely we're doing it every year. That's the plan. This will be our third annual. We started during COVID, and it actually went over pretty well. Last year, we had some great attendance as well, a lot of repeats. So we're looking for another fun adventure. If you want more information, it's going to be on our website, designedforthecreativemind.com. And you can also find information on the aforementioned paid coaching mentorship program that we offer, called the Interior Design Business Bakery. Plus, you can find all the podcasts, there you can find blogs, just all the fun things. Oh, we're gonna have a few things for sale on there soon. Shhh, don't tell anybody, it's not officially public yet.
So thanks for joining me here y'all. If you find that this is super helpful, join me in the Interior Designers Business Launchpad over on Facebook and drop me a note there, let me know that you did this exercise and how it felt. So that's our free group. It is on Facebook. Yeah, I know. It's not our favorite place, but it's a great place for a group and it's called the Interior Designers Business Launchpad. You can go in there, tag me, and tell me what you thought about this. I'd love to see you there. Thanks for joining me. Have a good one.
Hey, y'all. If you love the show and find it useful, I would really appreciate it if you would share with your friends and followers. And if you like what you're hearing, want to put a face with the name and get even more business advice, then join me in my Facebook group, the Interior Designers Business Launchpad. Yeah, I know it's Facebook, but just come on in for the training and then leave without scrolling your feet. It's fun, I promise you'll enjoy it. And finally, I hear it's good for business to get ratings on your podcast. So please drop yours on whatever platform you use to listen to this. We're all about community over competition. So let's work on elevating our industry one designer at a time. See you next time.