At one point or another, I believe all makers will receive intrusive questions related to HOW they make their products and with what materials exactly. I know this is a moderately controversial topic in the maker space, and as always I want to remind you that we do not have to agree on this at all. Everyone gets to choose how they run their business – it’s important that we all respect the choices other business owners have made even if they aren’t the same as the choices we would make for our business.
are the questions well intentioned
Of course, those kinds of prodding supply questions could come from potential buyers who have a particular interest in something that is not currently outlined in your shop, for example, ‘is it vegan’ or similar.
(Sidenote though: if you do source for sustainability, ethics, and other common or popular interests, you should emphasize that on your site or in your product descriptions, to begin with!)
Often though, these inquiries come from people who just want to make what you make, either to bypass the purchasing process thinking it will save money (does it ever?) or because they do already (or want to, or think they want to) sell that same sort of product that you do.
It’s entirely up to you how you handle intrusive questions
Some people don’t mind being asked and will share freely.
Others feel it is an invasion of privacy, and that it threatens their business in some way.
Some people simply don’t want to spend their time teaching or educating, as it is not their jurisdiction – not their thing, not what they are here for.
There is no right or wrong answer here.
You don’t even have to react or respond the same way each time.
I generally prefer NOT to share proprietary information. Not because I think it’s some big secret that no one else can find out… actually quite the opposite. I think people CAN find things if they look. *wink* I also am in the camp of — that’s just not a good use of my time right now.
You should consider that even if you are okay with sharing information sometimes, or with specific people, or in certain situations, once that information gets shared, it can be shared again outside of your control.
Again, entirely up to you what you want to do, but just remember that just because you tell one person doesn’t mean the information is safe with that one person. They can share it now, too.
In any event, here are three possible ways you can react or reply to intrusive questions about suppliers or when people inquire about your trade secrets.
The thing to keep in mind here is that it really comes down to priorities and boundaries.
I feel like this is an appropriate time to interject this tidbit:
One thing I have learned in my time as a business owner is that the person I trust the most is ME. No one knows better about my business than I do. And I trust my intuition entirely. No one knows better about what I experience or feel after I take an action than I do. I look for support in my business and I lean heavily on my mentor and colleagues but I do not default to their advice blindly. I listen to it and I hear it but in the end, if that advice doesn’t feel right to me, I’m not doing it. I want to encourage you to trust yourself as well. If your senses are all lit up saying no no no or yes yes yes, you should trust that.
It is okay – and healthy – to set boundaries in your business. Boundaries aren’t always built to keep people out – sometimes they are to help keep YOU focused. If you need a boundary, set one!
So let’s get into the list of possible responses to intrusive questions!
Of course, the first possible response is SILENCE.
Silence is a response. You are not obligated to answer every question that’s asked. It might feel uncomfortable at first, and that’s normal.
You need to protect your time and energy, and sometimes that might means leaving things unanswered, especially if they are things that do not move you forward.
If you aim to sell products and not education, it might not be worth your effort to give people this information -particularly if you are sensing that they are trying to recreate your products. That’s okay.
If you want to try your hand at educating and potentially helping the greater good in the process, you can explain honestly why you won’t answer the question that was asked. “This information is proprietary to my business so I will not be able to share it. I wish you the best in sorting out what sources and processes will work best for you!” It’s okay to be firm. A lot of people, in my experience, do not like that answer, though. So tread carefully here and only go into this one if you are prepared for a response of any kind.
Three: Tell them!
There is always the option to simply share exactly what you do, how you do it, and with what processes and materials. If that feels aligned to your goals and values and you’re okay with sharing, share it! There is nothing wrong with sharing just like there is nothing wrong with keeping it under lock and key. You get to decide!
Remember there are no wrong choices in business – there are only CHOICES and outcomes of those choices.
Thank you so much for joining me again today, I hope this was helpful! If it was, share it with a fellow maker!
See you on the next episode!