PFEIFFER SPOTLIGHT: The value of a good question

Published 4:01 pm Sunday, June 2, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Dr. Susan Luck embraces questions — and all that she and her graduate students can do with them.

Questions, particularly those of a more provocative and unpredictable kind, inform the classes Luck teaches at Pfeiffer University, where she’s a professor of business and the program firector, Graduate Schools of Business. She also answers questions in the posts she writes as an expert for WalletHub, an online business journal.

Luck, whose specialization is business communications, has been teaching at Pfeiffer since 1996. She dislikes questions that call on students to regurgitate material they’ve recently read, calling them “insulting” and “the quickest way to kill any interest in the topic.”

Instead, the students participate in a discussion prompted by the following questions: “Which one of the concepts in the reading for this week stood out to you as applying most to your life and why?” This exercise is called “Discuss the Concepts.” It complements “Apply the Concepts,” a process in which students are instructed to “go out and do something related to the concepts.” In a class on negotiations, for example, students keep asking people for something until they are told “no” 10 times; after that, they return to the people who said no and “ask, ‘What would it take to make this one a yes?’ ”

Luck has also realized that because virtual environments are here to stay, training students to present themselves professionally in that setting is essential. To that end, for example, students are asked to practice responding to job interview questions with substantive answers in clear and concise fashion.

Luck brings a formidable background to Pfeiffer. Since 1994, Susan L. Luck and Associates, LLC, a firm she owns, has offered professional writing and editing services along with professional training and coaching in written and oral communication, public presentation, and negotiations. She recorded much of her know-how in a book titled “Zen and the Art of Business Communications” (2015, Business Expert Press).

Zen helped solidify Luck’s credentials as the kind of expert who could contribute to WalletHub, in which she was first quoted in 2021. Luck’s involvement in WalletHub’s content is based on collaboration: Jacob Sanders, communications associate at WalletHub, approaches her with a topic he thinks would be in her wheelhouse. If Luck is of like mind, Sanders sends her questions, and Luck provides written answers to each of them, drawing on several sources, from what she sees and hears on the street to her voracious reading of business literature.

“I like to keep up with what’s happening,” Luck said. “Writing for WalletHub helps me share what I’ve learned.”

Luck has filed four articles for WalletHub since 2021. Her most recent WalletHub post provides expert guidance in an April 16 article about starting a business in a small city. The piece’s multiple sections enumerate the pros and cons of doing so and explain why certain small businesses do better than others in a smaller city. There are tips for entrepreneurs and suggestions for what local authorities can do to encourage entrepreneurial activity in small cities.

WalletHub is aimed at audiences aged between late 20s and early 50s. Luck said she wrote her most recent WalletHub piece with several different readers in mind: someone with a rural background looking for guidance in starting a business in a small city; the young professional who finds that living in a large city has become too expensive; and the 50-something businessperson considering new possibilities from their empty nest.

Sanders said that Luck’s writing “exhibits the key characteristics of expertise: deep knowledge, clarity, originality, credibility and engagement.”

“These qualities make her well-deserving of the title expert in her field,” he added. “Our readers are usually more interested in an expert’s opinion than some statistics on a website.”