As the world of technology, startups, and entrepreneurship further enter into the mainstream of society, they bring with it one unfortunate outcome--dishonesty.
You see, as someone who meets thousands of entrepreneurs, every so often there is that meeting with someone who knows all the buzz words, can name drop like a boss, but when digging just a little deep, I quickly realize that this person actually brings no substance, experience, relationships, or value of any kind in a business context. The thing is? Most people don't dig so they get away with it.
Why is this phenomenon, which I have now personally experienced close to 10 times, even worth mentioning? Well, because as you build your venture and hopefully transform it into a successful business, the team, the people you work with is undoubtedly the most important component that will make or break your growth and eventual success.
Bring the A-Team and you are gold, bring some big talkers who cannot deliver, and you just significantly lowered your chances of ever hitting critical mass and turning a profit.
The thing is, identifying these people, who often tell white lies and subtle dishonesties is not so simple. Here are five things to look for:
Name dropping is fine, but this is a whole different level.
I am not going to try and quantify it because it really depends on context, but in the beginning of most business meetings, name dropping is acceptable. It creates mutual trust, common ground, and helps to frame the meeting. Then there are the people who don't know when to stop. Non-stop name dropping is a sign that something is wrong.
In fact, in 9 of 10 cases when I encounter a compulsive name-dropper, and I actually follow up with any of the names dropped, they look at me like I am crazy because that person who just referred to them as a good friend? They only met them once and have zero relationship with them. Shocker.
Consistently failing to deliver is a pretty strong sign.
Well, the obvious symptom of the person we are referring to is that they are big talkers who consistently over promise and under deliver. That is probably the most objective way to know that you are dealing with someone who you should not be. Everyone fails to deliver occasionally, but if that person makes big promises and fails over and over to execute on that promise, back away slowly and no one will get hurt.
Sell to your customers, not to your team.
If you feel like every business meeting with this individual is like an infomercial, well, something is very wrong. Again, we all spend some time promoting and selling, but the question here, like most things in life, is quantity. Just how much selling is too much selling?
I know that when I have a call or a meeting with an entrepreneur who wants my advice but can't stop talking about how amazing and successful they are, that call is usually two calls, our first one and our last one.
Sell to customers, don't sell to your team.
"So let's talk about those accomplishments of yours."
Well, here is yet another easy way to quickly verify how legitimate the person is. They can't stop selling? Ok, maybe they are that good. Simply nod your head, jot down a note for yourself about some of the things this person claims they accomplished, and after the meeting, go verify it.
Speak to people, use search engines, and don't dismiss minor inconsistences, that is usually their strategy, to tell small lies people might ignore and they won't get busted on. If a person has to consistently tell small lies about their so-called accomplishments, well, something is not right.
Defensiveness doesn't look good on you.
And here is the nail in the coffin. If the person does all of the above, name drops obsessively, fails to deliver consistently, sells compulsively, and stretches the truth repeatedly, it is time to confront them. If you are right and we are talking about a dishonest person here, the next step they will take is being defensive, and in some cases, attack you once you confront them.
Remember, chances are this person has done this before, it is their methodology so when you confront them on it, you are in essence, as far as they're concerned, questioning part of their identity. They can't have that, so they will be defensive and won't accept your criticism. That is when you know you made a wrong turn somewhere and you need to recalculate your route.
Identifying these people early on and disengaging will ultimately lead to you saving time, resources, and in some unfortunate cases, a whole lot of heartache later on down the road.