Contractor Tip Of The Month: Asking the Right Questions to the Right Audience

Words: Damian Lang

Damian Lang

  You have decided it is time to sell your pickup truck. Simply parking it in your front yard and hoping for the best is not going to cut it. That is not the most efficient means of communicating its availability for sale.   You are going to need a sign, but not just any sign. A “No Trespassing” sign will not do the trick, nor will a “Road Work Ahead” sign. If you are looking for a buyer, you need to make sure that the passing traffic can plainly see that this truck is “For Sale.” Those two little words convey a very important question to everyone who reads it. It asks, “Are you in the market for a truck?” Now you have the right question, but are you asking the right audience? I have no idea how many people pass by your yard each day, but I bet only a small percentage of them – if any – are driving by looking for available pickup trucks. Therefore, don’t expect a quick sale. With the internet at your disposal, you will have a much better chance of selling your vehicle. Posting your truck on LinkedIn or online sites like Facebook Marketplace will get it in front of the eyes of people specifically looking for available trucks. Thus, you’re now asking the right question to the right audience.  Recently, I was networking with Jameel Ervin, a friend and contractor from Chicago. Jameel asked me some tough questions, most of which he gleaned from John Maxwell’s book, “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership.” Some of his questions were:
  • What is the greatest lesson you have ever learned?
  • What are you learning now?
  • How has failure shaped your life?
  • Who do you know whom I should know?
  • What have you read that I should read?
  • What have you done that I should do?
  • How can I add value to you?
As you can see, Jameel did not just fire a stream of random questions at me. He was intentional with the information he requested. He respected the value of both of our time. His questions warranted thoughtful responses that required self-examination, on both a personal and professional level.  In this situation, a budding businessman reached out to someone with a wealth of experience and made a meaningful inquiry. While I believe I gave him valuable feedback, our conversation was beneficial to us both. Our current economic climate has left many employers struggling to fill open positions. The sign they are displaying says, “Help Wanted,” which communicates the question, “Are you looking for a job?” But is that the right question that needs to be asked?  Is the problem that you do not have enough employees, or do you have a high turnover rate? If it is the former, then yes, you need a “Help Wanted” sign. If it is the latter, then you need to evaluate your business and your leadership style before you do anything else.  If you do not have enough employees, start by asking yourself:
  • Are you hiring employees who will not stay long term with your company?
  • Are you offering the right pay for the position?  
  • Do you offer flexible schedules, good benefits, and other perks that the competition does not?
  • Have you built a culture where employees want to stay at your company? 
  • Are your managers the type of people your employees will follow and work for the long term? 
  • What does your company do well as an employer that you can advertise to potential candidates?
  • Do you offer training programs so employees have opportunities to prosper?
  • Are you providing a roadmap for the growth of your all-star employees? 
  • What will your organization look like five years from now? Are you building your team around that plan?  
  • Are you building the right infrastructure to support your future growth? 
If you have a high turnover rate, seek answers from your current employees on the following questions:
  • What are the top five reasons you maintain your employment with our company?
  • What motivates you to do your job well?
  • What do you value most as recognition from your managers? 
  • Who gives you the most recognition? (It does not have to be a manager.)
  • Do you see yourself being coached/developed in the manner you desire? 
  • What is happening that makes you believe you are or are not?
  • What one thing could we do to make you want to stay here for life?
  • What one thing could we do to make you leave tomorrow?
  • If you could change one thing at this company, what would it be?
  In my nearly 40 years in business, I can admit that I did not always ask the right question to the right audience. I take solace in poet Maya Angelou’s words, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”  Today, I am doing better. Experience and learning from others have given me confidence in my questions and audience choice. It is my hope that I have imparted knowledge to you that saves you unnecessary setbacks and has you communicating efficiently and effectively. Now that we have found the right questions for the right audience, in next month’s tip we will answer some of these questions. Stay tuned. Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection and Safety Company, Three Promise Labor Services, and EZG Manufacturing. Combined sales at the companies will exceed $125 million in 2021. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites safer and more efficient, visit his websites at or To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email, or call 740-749-3512.
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