In the rap game, there’s nothing worse than Fake MCs. Weak beats and weaker lyrics hiding behind rhinestone bling, illegal samples, and irritating hooks; distracting from the Real MCs and real talent with the smoke and mirrors of big budgets and booty.
The entrepreneurship game is no different (well, less booty). Thanks to the low barrier to entry, almost anyone can appoint herself an expert and sell you a thousand-dollar e-course promising results on par with the second coming of Tupac – and it’s easy to be seduced into an overzealous sales pitch when you’re already in an “am I doing it right?!” panic spiral induced by the success porn that is social media.
With killer design, glamour shots, and over-the-top marketing copy, almost anyone can seem like they know what they’re doing, even when reality doesn’t back up the branding. These days, it’s easy to be a professional anything with a business card and an internet connection.
Buyer, beware. In the “Follow Your Passion!” age, there are plenty of vendors ready to capitalize on your dreams, your stress, and your insecurity.
Listen: it’s your life and your business. You can pay anyone you want to do anything you want (within certain legal boundaries). But if it’s about real results, it’s critical to learn how to see beyond the buzz. You get what you pay for, but in the world of professional services, you sometimes get far less than you expected.
This doesn’t mean you can’t help out a friend who’s launching his business and just needs those first few clients to get established. It’s important to support people on their way up.
If your goal is to build a successful, sustainable business that makes wise investments, here are the advisors to avoid:
The Holder of the One True Secret to Success
I get it. Business is hard. We want it to be easier. We worry that someone else sees everything we’re missing and holds the Grand Unified Theory of Billion-Dollar Business. When programs promise a permanent “breakthrough” or uses marketing words like “transformation,” “work from anywhere,” or “passive income,” do some digging and find out more about their clients’ track records and whether there is a guarantee. You should be able to get something valuable out of any class or coach you engage, but it’s nearly impossible to get everything in one place. Even if you’re investing in the Lamborghini of coaching programs, be confident enough to put on the brakes when a suggested route is not right for you or your business.
The Business Consultant Who’s Only Worked on One Business
This consultant can be extremely valuable… if you are building the exact same business he built, under the same circumstances, in a non-competitive yet similar market. I’ve hired the consultant who dominated her own business sector… only to find out that she was unable to deviate from her own model. I learned some valuable information, but most of it did not apply to my business.
See also: The Event Producer Who Launches an Event Production Company After Producing Only One Event
The Entrepreneur Who’s Left a Wake of Empty Pockets
The flip side of specialization may be breadth of experience, but was it due to repeat failures or shiny-object syndrome? There are business advisors who have run several businesses… right into the ground. If none of their former customers or investors are involved with their latest venture, that’s a sign that their track record is lacking in wins.
The Sales Guru Who’s Never Sold Anything
His website is gorgeous and his photos are top notch. He knows all the trigger words and phrases to get you to buy his e-course, but his bio glosses over the fact that his sales resume is shorter than the time it takes you to pay for his “bulletproof” method.
The Pay-to-Play PR Pro
Seasoned public relations professionals who can craft and place a strategic message about your brand do not accept payment per placement. Their work is specialized, intensive, and requires many hours of investment in building relationships with the media and influencers. The real pros are going for quality, not quantity, and can also help you measure results by their potential impact on your audience and business.
The Money Coach Who’s Always Had A Lot of Money
A better title for her book would be “How to be Born Into the Right Family and Marry a Banker.” Pass.
The Life Coach Who Doesn’t Realize that the Struggle is Real
The people who are coaches, healers, guides, and teachers who are truly in it to serve others have one thing in common: a major life event or transition that made them realize the value and fulfilling nature of doing meaningful work. If your guru has yet to go through a midlife crisis, she probably lacks the wisdom, insight, and compassion to guide you through life’s most difficult times. Instead, find someone who is forthcoming about her background and defining experiences. If she got through it and emerged a better person, she is far more likely to be able to hold space for you to do the same.
The Wellness Expert Who Was Born with Good Genes
Listen, I want my fitness instructor to have a better butt than I do. Not only does it give me something to aspire to; it gives me something to look at during a particularly grueling class. But if she has always been a size two, has yet to go through that late-20s or mid-40s metabolism-slash-gravity shift, or has never struggled with her relationship with food, her encouragement and advice just might degenerate into impatience and shade.
The Freelancer Who Readily Offers or Accepts Barter
Kiss your timeline goodbye. These deals almost always end up lopsided. It’s better to pay for the things that matter; only then can you call the shots.
Still, all of these pale in comparison to the most dangerous type of all:
The Businessperson Who Wants a Magic Bullet Solution
Look in the mirror: this might be you. Symptoms include avoiding the numbers, going with the first person you meet, buying based on price instead of value, not having a conversation about expectations and timelines, and expecting your results to include permanent profit, fame, and ease.
In my next article, I’ll show you exactly what to look for when interviewing your advisors. Stay tuned.