No matter how confident you are in your business, when it comes to the holidays, it's easy to get caught off-guard by a well-meaning cousin prying into how your business is doing. In an instant, a friendly conversation can make you feel like you're on an episode of Shark Tank

That's why I've put together these four answer frameworks to help you handle the most common questions entrepreneurs are asked on Thanksgiving. The goal? For you to be the one in control of the conversation. It's your business. No one is allowed to judge it except for your market.

Here are the most awkward questions you're likely to be asked this Thanksgiving: 

  1. "So...How's business going?"
  2. "What do you do?"
  3. "How'd you get into that?"
  4. "How does that make money?"

Usually, the people doing the asking are just trying to be polite and make small talk. But when you're an entrepreneur who's just starting out or if you're in the midst of a pivot, new product launch, or transition in your business, these can completely derail you.

Here's how to answer and deflect them with confidence.

Framework #1:  Provide a fluffy answer and immediately pivot.

This works best for the "'s business going?" question, which IMO is the world's most useless question. It's the entrepreneur equivalent of "How are you?" It's a pleasantry.

They're not actually asking how your business is. They're just being polite.

Which means you don't have to give a real or thoughtful answer. You can provide a fluffy answer and immediately pivot. For example:

  • "It's been great! How's your daughter?"
  • "Oh man, been busy which is great. What's going on with you?"
  • "Traveling a ton, I'm so exhausted. How are things with the kitchen remodel? I heard from Nancy it's been a mess with the contractors?" 

The goal here is to shift the focus back to the other person. Most people like to talk about themselves, so why not let them? Ask any question that diverts the attention away from you and you'll be in the clear. 

Framework #2: Don't focus on the accuracy of your answer, focus on sufficiency

When people ask "So, what do you do?" we feel like we need to explain all aspects of our business, which isn't true. As a former mentor once told me, "not every opportunity is an obligation." Just because someone asked doesn't mean you owe them an answer.

It's up to you how much you want to share.

For example: If you're trying to be known for back-end development, you don't need to tell people you do web design too. Tell them about back-end development.

Focus on sufficiency.

Framework #3: Tell people about where you're going instead of where you are.

To avoid the judgment and pigeonholing that comes with accurate complete answers, focus the conversation on where you're going. You can use phrases like "I am creating" or "I am building" to indicate you're in the process of it.

If you've been doing PPC work, but you're only doing that to finance your fan-fiction writing, talk about your fan-fiction and the audience you're creating around it.

Framework #4: Have a "cop-out answer"

I use this one when I'm trying to get out of a conversation. A "cop-out answer" is when you undersell yourself to get people to go "oh neat" and move on.

Mine is, "I work in marketing." It's a terrible (and not totally accurate) answer, but it works. It's extremely boring and doesn't leave much room for follow up questions. A perfect cop-out.

The real answer is that I run a virtual coworking space for solopreneurs with online businesses. But when I say that, I get the inevitable, "So...How does that work? Wait..people actually pay for that?!" line of questioning. 

And sometimes you just want to eat your pumpkin pie in peace without being interrogated about your business model.

People who care ask better questions

People who actually care to learn about what you're up to never open with, "So, what do you do?" They open with much better and more thoughtful questions.

If you enjoy or get value out of conversations with your family about the platform you're building or services you offer, absolutely talk your heart out.

But if you're even slightly influenced by those side comments that come from well-meaning people who don't understand, then these frameworks will help.

Remember: the only feedback that matters is from your market. And your family, your friends, and even your colleagues are not your market. You don't have to defend your business or idea to anyone who isn't your market

Published on: Nov 22, 2017
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