Answering Tough Questions | Summary and Q&A

June 18, 2015
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Answering Tough Questions

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This video provides advice on how to answer tough business questions. It demonstrates three types of tough questions and offers suggestions on how to effectively address each one.

Questions & Answers

Q: When will Tesla become profitable?

To be honest, I don't know exactly when our company will become profitable. However, we are rapidly expanding globally and constantly seeking talented individuals to join our team. I can connect you with our head of HR, who may have more information on job opportunities and company financials.

Q: When will the Hawaii office open?

While I don't have the exact opening date for our Hawaii office, I can assure you that we are aggressively expanding worldwide. If you're interested in job opportunities, I can introduce you to our head of HR, who can provide more details on upcoming office openings.

Q: Can you comment on negotiations with state authorities where Tesla can't currently open stores?

Our company policy prohibits me from sharing specific information about ongoing negotiations. We are committed to making Tesla accessible to customers in every state, and we're actively engaging with state authorities to address this matter. Rest assured that we're working tirelessly to overcome any obstacles and make purchasing a Tesla possible for all customers.

Q: How do you expect customers to buy a car if they have to spend 75 minutes at a charging station?

I understand your concern about charging time impacting customers' decision to purchase a Tesla. We have taken significant steps to address this issue. Currently, it takes approximately 40 minutes for our cars to reach an 80% charge. Furthermore, we have introduced battery swaps that enable customers to switch out their battery in just 90 seconds, faster than filling up a tank of gas. Additionally, we are continuously improving our battery technology to charge cars even faster. These advancements will allow people to get back on the road more quickly and strengthen the value proposition of our vehicles.

Q: How do you handle questions for which you have no answer?

When faced with a question for which you don't have an answer, it's best to rephrase or restate the question to ensure understanding. Then, honestly admit that you don't have the answer but express your commitment to follow up. It's important to maintain integrity by not providing false information. Demonstrating a genuine intention to address the question by asking for contact information or a business card can help build trust.

Q: What if you cannot answer a question due to confidentiality?

If you're unable to share certain information due to confidentiality reasons, it's important to openly acknowledge that fact. Instead of a generic response, explain that your company policy limits sharing information not previously released through official channels. When possible, provide a reason for the confidentiality, such as privacy, security, or data sensitivity. If relevant, share any available additional information to provide some context. Always avoid using the cliché response of "if I tell you, I'll have to kill you."

Q: What if the questioner makes a valid point about a company's weakness?

When confronted with a question that highlights a weakness, it's essential to show that you have heard and understood the concern. Reframe the question to emphasize the positive aspects and the promise for improvement. Agree with the questioner and align yourself with their perspective to foster a sense of collaboration. Then, transition to defending your position by providing evidence to address the issue. Conclude with a strong statement that highlights the progress made and showcases confidence in the company's response.


Addressing tough business questions effectively involves three key approaches: being honest when you don't know the answer, providing a reasonable explanation for confidentiality constraints, and acknowledging valid concerns while confidently defending your position. By rephrasing questions, admitting limitations, and offering follow-up, it's possible to navigate challenging situations and strengthen relationships with questioners.

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