"My company did four million in revenue last year," the man at a networking event boasted as he sipped his cocktail. "Cool," I replied and turned to roll my eyes. While the man could have been telling the truth, I've learned over time how to tell when someone's success is legitimate or a figment of their own imagination.
During the course of running my business, I've been scammed, deceived, and played enough to now know every red flag in the book. Here are three warning signs you can look out for that can save you from the unnecessary headache of a business "player" who's all talk and no action.
1. They're talking numbers five minutes after meeting you.
Whether it's at a party or business event, anytime I've encountered someone throwing around grandiose numbers about how much they pay for rent, how much they make, or how much their business is doing in revenue, I've often learned afterward that they are are only full of shi-- shiny invented numbers.
It can be important to talk figures, but in due time. Anyone who runs out of the gate screaming, "My apartment costs five thousand per month!" or "My business did seven figures last year," is not someone you should trust or want to do business with.
When someone starts talking numbers five minutes into a conversation, you can be certain that you're dealing with inflated numbers and likely an inflated ego. In my experience, it's often the most humble entrepreneurs who are the most successful.
As you're doing business, learn to trust your gut. If a deal seems to good to be true, it almost always is.
2. They constantly build themselves up and won't stop bragging.
Anyone who constantly compliments themselves during the conversation and brags about their accomplishments is likely embellishing--or has very low self-esteem. In both cases, this type of person is probably not someone you're going to want to work with.
With technology at your fingertips, it can be easy to detect a fraud simply by looking them up online. By perusing LinkedIn, doing a quick Google search, and scrolling a bit through their social media profiles, you can often see if someone's accomplishments match what they are saying.
Name dropping is a big red flag. Sometimes, I'll meet someone new and within the first 20 minutes of conversation they are already dropping names about the famous people they know and the "huge companies" they've worked with. I've learned not to take these people seriously as they are usually lying or tend to have an ego the size of Texas. Anyone who is trying to hard to prove they are a success usually is overcompensating for the fact that they aren't.
3. They go from zero to one hundred too fast.
"We should start a business together or partner on a project," is something I've heard dozen of times, only to quickly learn that this person has zero follow-through. It's important to take all business talk with a grain of salt until you can be certain that a person will actually act on their words.
Similar to an overzealous lover who confesses his love to you after one date, a business prospect who wants to partner up and take over the world together too fast is probably someone you shouldn't take seriously.
When you're evaluating a potential business partner, it's important to take time to get to know them, how they work, and learn more about their background. Though their "talk" might sound good - it's important to also learn if they can also walk the walk.
In the business world, you'll encounter many individuals who resemble a cubic zirconia. Hold out for the diamonds, and you'll be glad you did.