Like flesh-eating zombies, they stagger mesmerisingly through our social media feeds with a single-track mission.
To tear our bank accounts apart, penny from pound. Feasting on our hard-earned cash so they can survive for another day.
They are the current plague of empty business gurus.
Those shiny people (some of them sport even shinier suits) whose ULTIMATE MISSION is to help us UNLOCK the business SECRETS that helped THEM earn SIX figures…almost overnight.
And now YOU can do it TOO!
Tempting, isn’t it?
Especially when these six-figure stars are making themselves so accessible to the general public. I mean, aren’t they just so incredibly generous, to be letting us in on all their deepest money-making secrets?
I listened to a podcast episode last week, which featured a man with a very loud voice. He explained how he had almost lost his house once, but then he spent the last of his money on an amazing coach, who shared some secrets of success with him. Now he’s running a six-figure business, mostly from his Facebook group.
Life is good. So good, that all he wants to do now is share those secrets of success, because helping people is what he’s all about.
This is an admirable sentiment, except…
…if this man is actually making six figures from his Facebook page, I’d be more shocked than if I came home one day to find my cat wearing red lipstick and sipping a dry Martini. Especially when his ‘secrets of success’ amounted to not much more than “be welcoming, and post something every day”.
Alas, I couldn’t even check what amazing money-magnet gems he’d been posting, since his hallowed Facebook group was invitation-only.
But I could have a look at his company’s accounts, which I did straight after I listened to the episode. There were none to view, since he’d started his company less than a year ago.
(Might it be a little bit optimistic, telling the world you’ve got a six-figure business when it’s still essentially wearing nappies?)
Call me a cynic if you like, but it seemed to me that the shouty man had done not very much more than tell people he’s already got a six-figure business, so he can get them to spend their hard-earned cash on finding out how he got a six-figure business.
Result: he actually gets his six-figure business!
(Revelation: I’ve got a six-figure business as well. Most business owners do – it all depends on how much longer you continue after the decimal point).
Where’s the value?
So before you sign up to a course, spend your precious time at a ‘free’ seminar, or buy a book that promises to teach you how to make lots and lots of money overnight, ask yourself one question:
Where’s the value? What, exactly, are you paying this person for?
As in: what actual, useful, regularly-used skills are you going to come away with, and how are they going to help you grow your business? What are you going to do afterwards that you couldn’t do before?
Then: is this person the only one who can teach you these skills, or could you get the gist from a free blog post or video, then get on with it yourself?
And then: has the person teaching the course or writing the book actually done everything they’re talking about, for a sustainable period of time…
…or are they using the brute force of their personality, a shouty voice and a suspiciously white smile to get you to contribute to their next beach holiday?
Beware the ‘triumph over adversity’ story
The cult of business storytelling has given rise to a barrage of corporate tearjerkers worthy of a tone deaf X Factor contestant.
If someone tells you that they’ve endured a terrible upbringing, or that at some point they lost their house, their family, and everything they’ve ever held dear before making it big, then you’re allowed to admire their tenacity. You can even shed a few tears for them if you like.
But after you’ve calmed down and dried your eyes, ask yourself: what do they actually do, and how is it going to help you make some cold, hard cash in real life?
(You might feel sorry for that SEO consultant who was bullied repeatedly as a kid. But if you’re going to work with them, you should still want them to be at the top of the Google search rankings for ‘SEO consultant’).
Quick fixes don’t work
The only person who’s ever made millions out of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg.
And how often do you see him popping up on there, telling you how to DO WHAT I DID?
If you really want to develop a six-figure business, you’re going to have to come up with a skill or a product that’s so unique and irresistible, other people want to pay for it. And that’s only the beginning.
Mad success hardly ever happens overnight, and when it does happen you’ll probably be far too busy working on it to host sparky seminars that tell other people HOW YOU DID IT.
(Bear in mind that even if you wanted to explain it, you probably won’t be able to package up just HOW YOU DID IT. Every wildly successful business seems to have a story behind it that’s an untameable mix of natural skill, dogged research, determined grit, sheer luck, and heart-stopping surprise).
Study the real successes
If you want to learn from the actual experts, seek them out and study them. Do a bit of research.
That doesn’t necessarily mean paying for expensive courses and books. Just spend some time reading their websites, following their blogs, videos and social media feeds.
What’s so special about their offering, and how do they sell it? What can you learn from them?
If you want to go further, you could even find someone who’s already a success in your field, then ask them directly for some advice.
But do yourself a favour, and don’t let those empty business gurus loose on your bank account. For our businesses to survive, they have to be destroyed at all costs.