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Last Update: Sunday July 25, 2021

Key Idea: Ask and Listen

The sales cycle for big projects is long and Nancy Goshow says the only way to get a large piece of work is to ask customers what they want and then listen carefully to what they say.

Key Question:


Learn how to ask the right questions, then listen to the answers. The right questions invite real opinion and insights into products, problems, and services.

Q:  Are we asking questions to hear somebody's answer, or do we ask questions because we want to hear the answer that is in our head?

A: There is something about our culture -- and we believe that it is tied directly to the many exploitive images, behaviors and words seen throughout commercial television and the cinema -- that teaches us to think exploitively and to distrust each others intentions and motives. We all need to regain our sense of empathy and respect so we can truly listen to each other and ask questions to hear unique answers from the unique person with whom we are engaged. Nancy told us her way of extracting good information from customers and employees is to ask questions, probe, listen, present – watch and listen for the response. She even makes it more challenging when she points out that you may have to repeat this process many times before you arrive at a clear consensus.

In a recent episode of the show, we visited with Keith Grint, an Oxford scholar who has been studying leadership for years. In that study guide, the conclusion was, "Asking is better than telling." You may decide at this time to review the nine points from that episode to examine your own leadership style.

Think about it

When was the last time you asked a question and truly listened to the answer? Do you think you slow down enough to hear what employees and customers are trying to tell you?

Clip from: Goshow Architects

New York City: Meet  Nancy & Eric Goshow of Goshow Architects. A major part of their work comes out of the $60± billion in annual small business contracts set aside by the US federal government.   At least 23% of all federal contracts are mandated to go to small business, but you've got to be certified!  Priority is given to those with diversity and with women in leadership roles. This set-aside  doesn't stop there.

The federal and state governments look carefully at all the big business contracts and are more favorable when they see big business award 23% of their sub-contracts to small business. Now, the Goshow's field, architecture-and-design, is one small segment of these contracts and sub-contracts.

Virtually every very creative, small business can have a role in lowering the cost of government while improving services.

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Goshow Architects

Nancy Goshow, CEO and co-founder

36 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10010

Visit our web site:


Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1978

Ask and Listen

ERIC: This is a luxury apartment on the upper west side. And what happens when you are just doing a little room like this bedroom is you are exploring ideas in miniature in ways that you can use them on larger projects. And it's fun to enter into a dialog with clients who really are interested in our ideas.

Some of our larger development clients are just interested mostly in time and money. But this is where this individual is going to live his life and this bedroom is very important to him. He will be here every single day. So getting it right and working with him is becoming a real joy. This is, in a way, where we derive our bliss.

Working -- really struggling with the problem. Getting lost in problem-solving. Presenting our ideas to the client and going through a process of sometimes discussion and sometimes argumentation. As we learn what he is interested in – what his needs are – and we bring our own needs to the project. So residential work for us is a real kind of laboratory for understanding design notions. And it gives us pleasure in our lives.

HATTIE: A long-term and complicated project for Goshow Architecture is the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. They are the lead firm on renovation and expansion of this Gothic Revival structure built in 1875.

NANCY: One of the things we always do when we are doing a design scheme is -- we always draw up exactly what the client thinks the project should be. If you don't do that, you will never get beyond that idea that the client has. The client always have ideas.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Nancy shows me the scale model of the interactive children's museum they have designed for the Brookhaven National Laboratory. She explains that after drawing what the client wants, Goshow draws up their own ideas striving to give the project visual buzz.

NANCY: We also added eyes and an eyebrow. And the eyes are actually an exhibit that are concave and convex lens for the children to run up to the building and see what is going on inside.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The result becomes a merge of everyone's thinking.

HATTIE: So what is the secret to successful client service?

NANCY: Ask questions, probe, listen, present – watch and listen for the response. Modify it and then conclude it with the client every step of the way. And it may take more than one iteration.

HATTIE: Let's talk about what it takes to get a piece of business.

NANCY: In the field of architecture we have to be getting new clients all of the time. People come to us -- they built a building and the building is built – and then we have to look for a new client. We spend anywhere from $6,000 to $25,000 on a proposal for a project depending on the size and scope and who the client and how well they know us or how much we have to introduce them to what we do and how we work. The most we've ever spent was $65,000 -- we did not get the project.

HATTIE: And she still smiles –

NANCY: But I have a follow up to that.


NANCY: My attitude on the fact that we didn't get the project for $65,000 was “Okay, fine -- that's not a problem.” We now have that project in our portfolio ready for the next opportunity. And my experience has taught me that we will have another opportunity and then we will be right there. We are ready to go, we don't have to reinvent that piece. And that has proven to be important in our overall marketing strategy because everything we have done that has not been successful, we have found a second chance in which to re-introduce it into something successful for the firm.

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