Clearly, we are living in the "Age of the Expert", where there are lots of people claiming to be the leaders at something or other. They tell a good story and I have no doubt that many of them are experts, but a lot are not. What really concerns me is that the ones who really should be promoting themselves as experts or authorities can actually do a lot of harm to a business or to an individual.

A few years back I met a lady who did a weekend course to become a life coach. After just two days of training, she started advising people to get divorces, close their businesses, quit their jobs and a range of other pretty dramatic advice. I seriously doubt that she had the skill set or the expertise to be in a position to be advising people to make such dramatic changes in their life.

My advice, before you start investing your hard earned cash or making a major life or business decision, do some serious due diligence. I suggest the following as a starter -

  1. Just because someone can make a video on an iPhone, sitting on a beach recycling other people's ideas thinly disguised as their own, doesn't mean they are capable. Look for people who have worked with them and find out what they have to say. Reach out on social media and look for feedback. Invite people to email you if they don't want to put their comments in the public social media world.
  2. Spend time online researching the individual you are looking at to see what appears. You might be surprised. And alarmed. A lot of information is readily available, both good and perhaps not so good. Never buy a product or service from a so-called "expert" without doing your research.
  3. Never be pressured into buying with an "only available today" kind of offer. These offers are always repeated. In fact for me, the minute I hear "it's only available today" I automatically walk away. Don't get caught up in the heat of the moment, perhaps the excitement of the event and the thrill of urgency that comes with selling at the back of the room. If you have any doubt at all, walk away.
  4. If you're talking to the sales team of the "expert" ask as many questions as you can. Get specifics and ask questions about "what will happen if you're not happy". Think about the divorce, not the honeymoon. Again, if everything is not answered to your full satisfaction, walk away.
  5. If someone is claiming to be an expert in a space, dig deep to find out exactly what they've done. There are so many people claiming to be experts at building businesses, yet their own business is basically bankrupt. Sometimes I would even suggest going as far as doing a credit check on the business.
  6. Beware of vague testimonials. In this case, especially the ones with no names, or no job titles. Also be on the lookout for really old testimonials. This indicates that the business was good in the past, but maybe it isn't now.
  7. Last but not least, if they are claiming to be an expert in a space, take your time and do your homework to see who else is working in that space. You might find someone with less profile but more ability and credibility. If the people you are looking at have books, buy them and read them - see what makes them different and who you resonate with the most.

As more experts appear, there will be more who are trying to take your hard earned cash without having any real substance behind them. If you get caught up in the hype you will regret it. Take a step back, do your homework and be prepared to walk away at the slightest hint of concern.

Published on: Mar 20, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.