Friday, January 17, 2014

The Real Deal In A Universe of Phonies

My first contact with a phony was about 18 years ago. A co-worker with the same title that I had, same pay, same duties, came up to me one day during lunch and gave me his card. We didn't have business cards in our department since our primary clients were internal departments and not the public. To reach us was as simple as sending an inter-office memo or an internal office phone call. So you can imagine my puzzled look on my face when I take his card and it stated his title as CEO of a company I had never heard of. Yes, a Chief Executive Officer.

My understanding of what a CEO was had to do with the corporate structure I'd "grown up" with. I'd become quite knowledgeable on who was who on the executive level, what their backgrounds were, their experience, their skill-sets. I also had worked with this guy for about six years and I was pretty sure that I hadn't seen him in any Forbes or Inc magazine articles but I had never seen him featured in our own company newsletter.

Now I didn't judge, I was simply perplexed. Most CEOs were making six figures (remember, this was last Century) and well, they didn't punch in a time clock the way we did. I was mildly curious and I figured he could of course be some eccentric and crazy person who worked alongside the rest of us just to see what real life among the middle class was like. Yet there was something inside my gut telling me this guy was not only being disingenuous but ballsy when he gave himself this title.

Look, I have come to know many people who not only held a full time job but also tried to start a business at home. Twenty years ago to have a business card was a sign that you were on the way up or already there and if my co-worker had started a business then kudos to him. Yet to use the title of someone who you would expect oversaw a company that was either already established or possibly had hundreds of employees or whose cash flow had enough zeros on it to sort of make that connection a much easier one but he had none of that.

I asked him how many employees did he have and he said it was just him and a partner. I asked him how many years had his company been established and he said he was saving up to incorporate himself. I asked him how did he receive payment for his services (he was into organizing night club parties - sound familiar) and he said he was a CASH ONLY business. He used his beeper as his method of communication and while there were websites back then, he didn't have one.

So I did the only thing a girl like me, daughter to a former NYPD Homicide Detective, knew how to do. I looked him up in the yellow pages. I called the operator on my rotary phone and asked for the number of that company. Nothing. I got nothing. Then I called the Better Business Bureau but knew better to really dig because I remembered he said he'd been saving up for the legal fees to incorporate himself.

Fast forward two decades. The internet is a black hole of domain names. You could fill our own universe with the number of at-home businesses with a company of just one employee that filled out forms only to sputter and lose gas before really getting anywhere. I don't look down on any of them as they've gotten farther than those who are working out of their garage or den, using Paypal or Quickpay and filling their 1099s (so the government hopes) every year and who haven't made it official yet. Heck, I've tried my hand at two businesses, followed all the steps and after a few really HARD years I realized I couldn't serve two masters: my full time job that helped me sustain a lifestyle that would raise three boys versus my passion, whose cause and reasons sustained my need for fulfillment and satisfaction that I was indeed making a difference in my community.

Hey, I'm more of an idealist than a capitalist. At least I figured that out. I guess I'll never be THAT kinda financially rich.

After two decades working in cyberspace, going from a graphic designer, to a website developer, to an internet business solutions consultant and then a cyber publicist (came up with that title all on my own too in 2000) and now an internet data tracker and Internet Business Solutions Consultant I am in awe of all the phonies out there. Everyone has an e-book they want to sell and so many actually do! Yes, they get a hint of what the latest trend is and they slap ten quick buzz words or steps together and if they network their affiliations to other companies just right (because after all it wouldn't be an e-book if it didn't have a million links to MORE products and services) then for as little as FREE (hint: NOTHING IS EVER FREE, especially if you end up on a Squeeze or Landing page that wants everything about you, practically your first born - of which many will sell to third parties because they do need to make money off of you now) and the sky (because desperate times calls for desperate measures and if what looks like a popular e-book costs $49.99 then it must be legit right?!)

I've given so much free advice over the years that I'm sure if I had simply charged a dollar I could have bought a nice new car by now. So imagine my shock and then my laughing fit of hysteria when a colleague who had been constantly asking for free advice for years, stumble onto my own website, asked me for some more advice and THEN announced that he too should become a consultant. Dude? You suck. You come to me for advice, you don't do half the stuff I recommend and you have no track record, nothing you can show prospective clients, no testimonials but you want to hang a shingle in cyberspace and call yourself a marketing consultant? Sadly, he's not the only one! There's another person who meets up with new young and hungry young people looking to learn how to break into internet businesses. He promises them that if they hire him he can help their businesses grow and yet, the man is in debt up to his eyeballs and his own online presence is about as visible to the human eye as Pluto is on a CLEAR night.

Finding the actual experts, the real deals has become as rare as finding unpolluted water in West Virginia. Nowadays you can doctor up a profile and repeat it often enough so that the world will believe it and yet have no substance, no real ability to do what you your profile says you can do and make tons of money without actually producing a result. AND if this is how you make a living and you can sleep at nights then hey, Bernie Madoff sure slept well for quite a few decades but look at him now. Besides, since the beginning of time, snake oil salesmen and phony medicine men claiming to be able to cure all that ails you has been out there, except now, they have a cool business card or website or a gimmick that takes your money now and doesn't answer questions later. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

As to the real deals out there, and I know quite a few of them, I thank you. You hang touch in a sea of phonies and you do what you do, fighting to get seen or heard throw the roar of BS. You smile nicely to clients who come to you only AFTER they've been swindled and you make payment plans to help them because they spent their money on the shiny fast talking snake oil salesmen who sold them a bill of goods and now you have to clean up the mess. You should have been the first choice had they DONE THEIR HOMEWORK and not been so fast to hire the first thing they saw on the Google Search for those well-paid for keywords. There is a sure fire way to identify you and that's by talking to you and seeing your track record. Also by talking to those in your area and business community. The one great thing about identifying excellence is that you don't have to be liked but I'll bet you're sure as heck respected.

So, if you're ever in need of an expert, do your homework and if you go around telling everyone that you're an expert, you sure as heck better know what you're talking about because a business card calling you one doesn't make it so and knowing a few tricks doesn't make you a consultant, just a waste of people's time, energy and money.


Carmen M. Colon is a mother, an engineer, an author and a workshop facilitator on the topics of leadership, womens empowerment, career advancement, social branding, social media marketing and internet business solutions.
She is working on a free e-book sans squeeze or landing page (she's gone cyber media rogue!) as well as one that offers solutions to cyber businesses new and old on how "do-it-yourself" cyber market your website.
Her personal website is http://carmenmcolon.info
Her online professional resume can be found on linkedin.com at http://linkedin.com/in/carmenmcolon
Her company is Gotham Cyber Media Solutions. http://gothamcyber.net
Her books can be found online: http://amazon.com/author/carmencolon

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