5 Ways Coaches and Experts Can Hurt Your Business

Use due diligence when you're seeking expert advice on your business. Watch for these red flags.
Author, Profit First
April 19, 2012

Need advice? Experts, including myself, will be glad to share it. Unfortunately, experts can give very bad advice. As an expert, I need to walk a fine line here, since this article itself is an expert opinion. But hear me out.

The main problem with experts today is that everyone seems to be one.

Don’t get me wrong. We need experts. The next time my dishwasher breaks, I want an expert to fix it. And sure, if my business needs help with marketing, I want a marketing expert to help me. But you need to separate the good from the bad by watching for the following five warning signs.

1. Hasn’t been there, hasn’t done that

You want a coach or expert who has actually done what you are doing. While a coach may have training in your field, nothing can top hands-on experience. Look for a coach that has direct experience in what you need advice about.

2. Big words, little action

It is easy for an expert to gain credibility by writing. Many experts quickly dominate the blogosphere with sage advice. But the reality is that words mean nothing if you can’t execute. Look for coaches who both write about what they do and do what they write about.

3. Advice, but no specific experience

Ever ask an expert what they think about your product or service and they then tell you why it is a horrible or great idea? I don’t care if you have 100 years of consulting experience. If the expert is not the end consumer of the product or service, his advice is wrong.

The consumer knows what she wants. Listen to her.

Tip: If you want to quickly qualify an expert, ask them what they think about your offering. If they offer advice, without qualifying (or disqualifying) themselves based on their consumer experience, they're likely giving you bad advice.

4. No coach of their own

If a coach doesn’t have his own coach, red flags should fly! It could indicate that the coach you're hiring doesn’t believe in being coached. Or, that the coach feels she has nothing left to learn.

5. Nothing to learn from you

An expert doesn’t know all things. Being an expert means having superior knowledge and hands-on experience in one category. To apply this knowledge on your behalf, the expert must learn about your business. If they aren’t thirsty to know more about your industry or if they don't ask for your direction, you may be getting a one-size-fits-all solution. At the end of the day, that's not a real solution.

When you need an expert in a certain field, be discerning. You want someone who knows what they’re talking about, does what they talk about, is constantly learning and doesn’t try to solve all problems with one easy-fix solution. That expert will give you some great advice.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Author, Profit First