In business, it is everyone's responsibility to be a harsh critic.
Recently, I was interviewed about entrepreneurship by Business Insider. Here were some of the negative comments in response to the interview:
"I am so tired of people who've got a book to sell so glibly talk about the entrepreneur track."
"And what makes Scott an authority figure on this topic? From what I just heard in that video it sounded like a kid doing nothing more than throwing around a few buzz words."
"Not exactly someone to emulate or take career advice from."
Sure, some of the comments were off-the-wall, unfounded, or written by people who probably hate on everyone. Additionally, thousands of people watched the interview, I have to say I was thrilled to see readers holding me accountable and taking me to task—whether I believed their criticism was warranted or not. Not only did it help me realize flaws in my argument, but it also reaffirmed something I've believed for years: My advice isn't for everyone (and neither is anyone else's advice.)
The Internet has been responsible for many positive changes in society, including global social networking capabilities and instant access to information. However, it has also fueled an ever-growing field of pundits without merit and salesmen trying to masquerade as experts. Today, the sheer number of bloggers and pundits vying for attention makes it difficult for knowledge seekers to sift through crap to find gold.
Now, I am always the first person to tell business owners to become niche experts in their fields to spur business activity—so long as they know what they are talking about, have a track record to support their claims, and offer relevant and practical advice rather than advertorial nonsense. Yet, many folks still decide to take more than they give, which is a huge turn off.
So, dear readers, what is my advice to you? Proceed with caution when it comes to giving "advice." Just because someone's advice is amazing for your friend's business doesn't mean it's great for yours. In fact, it might even lead you astray. Research before you invest your time into taking on an "expert" as your role model. Scrutinize every alleged expert's background and be sure his or her insights are relevant to your business.
Most important, don't fall for well-marketed, hyped-up gurus just because they travel the country on speaking tours or have a bestselling book. It's okay to take inspiration from most success stories, but you must also carefully consider how you allocate time and money towards any particular business methodology or philosophy.
When you do follow a piece of advice and the results aren't to your liking, speak out. Offer a retort that provides readers with a different approach. Start a dialogue around the subject matter presented. Hold the creator of this advice accountable. In short, always push so-called experts to give you our best efforts—or fight to eliminate us from the face of the blogosphere. It is your responsibility as a reader and business person to help to get attention to the best information.
But be forewarned, don't just heckle for the sake of getting attention. Hell hath no fury like a community's scorn. Just ask AnnieT, who posted on Business Insider in response to the negative commentary about my interview:
"It's no wonder people hate commenters. Did anyone bother to actually look into Scott's background? He's done more for young entrepreneurs in five months than I'm sure any of you have done in your lifetimes."