The Four Possible Answers to Any Investor Question

Our Washington DC market manager, Karen Krupsaw, was in my office last Monday getting ready for her first board meeting. We weren’t worried about her presentation, just because her point of view has the violence and certainty of a hawk descending on a field mouse.

Instead we worried about the Q&A; most board presentations are carefully scripted events that don’t go according to the script at all. The questions just start flying.

But Scott Nagel, our VP of real estate operations, pointed out that regardless of what questions Karen faced, there should usually only be four possible answers: yes, no, a number, I don’t know. “When in doubt,” Scott said, “my personal favorite is I don’t know.”

This Q&A protocol was one we first settled on when pitching Redfin to investors. And the reason for it was a tendency we noticed in one another to give a spiel instead of a direct response to a question.

Scott’s advice works on a surprisingly wide range of questions. If Google gained access to local listings and brokerage data today, could we compete in real estate search? No. What will our revenue will be in 2012?  I don’t know. How long does it take a new market to generate profits? 6 months.

You can elaborate on these responses, but directly answering the question starts you off on the right foot. For her part, Karen did a fantastic job answering the board’s questions, but not always because of our help: the first question she got, within a few seconds of being introduced, was “What’s your background? Where’d you work before Redfin?”


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  • Brian

    This is excellent presentation advice even for us real estate agents giving a listing presentation to new prospective sellers! “Yes”, “No”, “a Number”, or “I don't know.” My personal favorite also is “I don't know”. In fact, along with being a real estate agent, I'm medical device engineer, and when giving technical presentations, I find that I can keep the audience's attention by simply responding “I don't know” to a question I do not have the answer to. Sometimes, I will poll the audience to see if somebody else has experience or data to chime in. The truth is that nobody is “all-knowing”…just be accountable to the questions and seek answers afterwards if you need. Great post and great advice!

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