Tag Archives: experts

3 Tech Benefits and 1 Threat for Guru Businesses

By guru business I mean the expert business, and particularly the one-person expert business. I mean consultant, coach, adviser, researcher, business hired gun, life coach, trainer, and so on.  I mean a person who makes a living by selling (real or imagined) expertise, experience, and knowledge.

magnifying glassI was a business planning consultant for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, working almost always alone, just myself, no company. So that’s an example of an expert business. And I’ve been thinking lately about how much social media has changed that business model for the better. In this case – but with one notable exception – change is good.

Benefit 1: Marketing your expertise is way easier

There is a new way of marketing that is so much better than the old way. Call it the Web, social media, blogs, Twitter, or the combination; it means way more reach, automatically, if you do it right.

Consider the comparison, now vs. then: I lit out on my own as a business planning and market research expert in 1983. I had my credentials, of course, including academic degrees and a fancy title with a brand-name consulting company, plus some published works. But how did I make myself known? Word of mouth from clients who’d worked with me as an employee, yes. But from there it was a struggle to get my articles into magazines, my self onto the podium at the big trade shows (such as Comdex), and to finish a couple of published books on my main subject matter.

Today, in comparison, successful experts build their business by a combination of useful blog posts, active mini-blogging on Twitter, ebooks, and work with Facebook and LinkedIn. Do you see the pattern there? The gatekeepers are gone.

Where it used to be important to validate your expertise by getting through the gatekeepers in corporate branding and publishing, nowadays can’t you validate your expertise by making good sense on your blog? Believe me, that’s so much easier than the old way of publishing, speaking, and giving seminars.

Benefit 2: Acceptance is based on expertise more than setting

I posted this related thought on this blog Tuesday, about how clients can get better value from a one-person business with no overhead. Who does the work? The client is much more likely today, compared to 20 years ago, to accept and even approve of the fact that you’re on your own. Not having a company around you is no longer cause to wonder what’s wrong with you.

Benefit 3: With gatekeepers devalued, it’s the work that matters

And then there’s this last thought, which I hope is true: today we judge experts by their work, meaning their writing and speaking (and tweeting), much more than we used to. Today an expert’s work is more immediately available, and with less distortion through gatekeeper filters, than ever before. Isn’t it?

How do you evaluate a guru ahead of time? Usually the about page and the content of the blog. There’s less interference there. Back when I started, it took getting through magazine editors to get published, or event managers to get a podium, or joining or creating a company.

Do you frown on an ebook because it wasn’t published by a name-brand publisher? Do you mistrust a blog because it isn’t in a major business publication? Not so much. Am I right?

And the warning?

The bad news is the other side of the good news: It’s the work that matters. Today you have to either do good work or settle for clients you can fool. It was easier back then to hide mediocre work with a company around you, or an editor of a magazine to rewrite it. Today, if you claim to be an expert, you’d better create some content to back that up. Transparency is cool when it’s a bright and beautiful looking glass that highlights and spotlights you. It’s not so nice when it’s a magnifying glass that’s going to burn you like an ant in the backyard on a hot summer day.

(Image: Freshpaint/Shutterstock)

Curious Case of Experts vs. Managers

How do you react to this quote? This is Mark Shaeffer about social media experts, in this post. I quoted him in my post here yesterday:

How many have ever had a real sales job or have been actually accountable for delivering new value in a marketplace by creating, testing and distributing a product on a meaningful scale?   Very few.  Yet these are our marketing “gurus?”

Now wait a minute.

Who says marketing experts have to have sales experience? Why do they need to have been accountable for a new product?

I want my experts smart, experienced, and knowledgeable. I want them to listen. I want them open to new ideas. I want them to give good advice.

But I don’t care if they’ve had sales responsibility; or if they’ve launched a new product. Why should I?

Do I care if my doctor has built a house? Do I care if my accountant can sing? Why do I want experts to be managers?

What about you? Do you think a business expert has to have line management experience? Can a single-person expert really be an expert if he or she hasn’t run a company?

Do you think the best programmer makes the best manager?

“Line vs. staff” was a big deal to multinational executives and managers I consulted for in the 1970s and 1980s. As a consultant and newsletter generator, I was staff. Line managers had responsibility for sales numbers or profitability. And they were proud of it. It was important to their career.

Does that still matter? Or is it confusing makers and managers? And don’t the experts have to close some sales now and then to survive in business?

Not that the idea threatens me at all – I’m safe on this respect, since I’ve built a company, based on my own software, so whatever expertise I claim will pass that “sales or new product” test.

It’s just that experts and managers are like apples and oranges. Different skills. I want managers to be managers, and experts to be experts.


Late addition: I had the above post ready to go when I was dealing with comments from yesterday and picked up Chris Brogan’s defense, here. He picked up on the same underlying assumption:

Have I held a sales job in a big company? Hell no. I’m not a salesman. Instead, I’m someone who equips salespeople with new tools to drive to value. I’m a hell of an opener, and decent with the first 2/3 of the cycle, but if my kids had to eat on my ability to close complex sales? Hell no.

Interesting perspective. Can you trust me? Beats me. I’ll let my work stand for itself. : )

No argument from me there.

(Photo credit: karbunar/Shutterstock)

I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinkin Labels

Labels, and labels. Two days ago I complained here about self-proclaimed “experts” and “gurus.” And today I realize that I do the same thing myself, calling myself an entrepreneur. I ran into this interesting thought:

I must admit that when I hear the word (which inundates conversation and — more interestingly– the personal summaries of seemingly everyone over the age of twenty on my two favorite social networks), a little voice in my head channels Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, and I say to myself in a nerdy accent to the entrepreneur in cyberspace, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Gulp. She — Colleen Dilenschneider, in The Mind-Numbing Evolution of the Term “Entrepreneur” — has a point. She goes on:

The title of entrepreneur– especially when said in description of oneself– is losing its meaning to me and I wonder how long it will be until the word has virtually no meaning at all.  Perhaps my scope is skewed, and this is an issue among all social network users, regardless of generation.  When I read entrepreneur in a person’s description, I think, “I need to learn more.”

Well said. And while Colleen links all the entrepreneurship to Gen Y traits …

by izzie whizzie on Flickr

With the rapid onset of social media, does the word entrepreneur mean less because we are all entrepreneurs? Is generation Y an entire generation of entrepreneurs? We certainly seem to be.

… I think it’s more than that. It’s most of our entire solopreneur-enamored, pushed entrepreneurs, baby boomer recession-survival Western world.

We love labels. Experts, gurus, entrepreneurs, nonconformists, bloggers, professionals, rock-star programmers, middle managers, and out-of-the-box thinkers all of us. We like working with labels and slogans because, as with the 30-second news byte, it makes life easier. We all need our labels. Sometimes it seems like the beginning of a board game, choosing your token to play monopoly.

And if everybody has the same label, the game doesn’t work.

(photo credit: izzie_whizzie on Flickr)

Some Things You Should Never Call Yourself

Irony: seems like people who call themselves experts, gurus, mavens, and inspirational speakers usually aren’t.

Have you ever been inspired by a self-proclaimed inspirational speaker? I haven’t. I’ve been inspired by authors, writers, researchers, teachers, founders, entrepreneurs, poets, even, lately, by Presidents. But they don’t call themselves inspirational speakers.

The greatest collection of inspirational speakers I know of is at www.ted.com. Hundreds of people, many of them, maybe even most of them, inspirational, but not one carries that particular label around. That’s not what their name tags ever say.

Yesterday I read this on PR Workbench by Jack Monson:

Self-described Social Media Experts beware!

If you call yourself a social media expert, the rest of us will soon see that you’re saying nothing.

And then, in this second post following up, this:

Don’t misunderstand – there are many true social media experts out there. The best of them do not need to call themselves experts; their clients and peers are doing that for them.

That seems clear to me. Do you agree?

(Photo credit: Original cc by Memekiller on Flickr, modified)