Today, I’d like to save you time, money, energy and stress. I want to help you avoid making the extremely costly mistake of using someone’s title as a decision making shortcut.

Whilst some titles are defined by meaningful, proven attainment (like the title Professor), others are way too vague. Here are some examples of titles, which sound like one thing, but could mean something completely different.

The CEO

Anyone can be the CEO of nothing. Think of it like this: Bob and Mark are both CEO’s. Whilst that title tells us they are both the head of a company, it tells us nothing about their company or their achievements. Bob could be CEO of a 3 month old business that’s in the process of going bankrupt, and Mark could be the CEO of Facebook.

If you are thinking of giving your money, time or attention to someone, just because they have the CEO title, dig a little deeper first.

Internet Start-up founders

I get emails most days, from people calling themselves the founder of an Internet Start-up. Some Internet start-ups are funded by millions of dollars worth of investment and run by people with a proven track record of success. Others are 2 days old, unfunded, with no relevant expertise or business model, trying to be just like Amazon.com… only better.

Again, as a small business owner, your time is too precious to give it away to everyone, claiming to be the founder of an Internet Start-up who plans to make you rich. Check them out first. Their title, by itself, means nothing.

BTW: If you’re interested in start-ups, I was interviewed about Kickstarter by ABC News last week — you can read it here.

Best selling authors: from Gladwell to Godin to minimum wage

Then there are best selling authors. Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin can rightly claim to be best selling, non-fiction authors. They are. However, they are also poles apart, in the wide, 3 tiers of best selling authors.

Top tier: Gladwell sells millions of copies of each book. He earns millions of dollars from them and he is interviewed on major TV networks, worldwide, when each new book is launched.

Middle tier: Godin is extremely successful, but sells far fewer books than Gladwell. Godin appears on affiliate marketing blogs, podcasts and in marketing publications, to promote his new books. Whilst a pole away from Gladwell, Godin’s influence is huge within his niche. He’s also a pole away from the next tier.

Bottom tier: These are the best selling authors, who sell surprisingly few books (as few as 5000) and make very little money. Just search Google for “how much does a best selling author earn”. You will see it can be as little as $15,000 or less, for maybe a year spent writing and promoting their book. That’s less than minimum wage!

There is a huge difference between Gladwell at the top and the people at the bottom. So, if approached by a best selling author, asking you to invest your time and expertise, in return for a name-check in their next book, do some research. Using their best selling author title, by itself, as a decision making shortcut, could lead you to waste lots of your valuable time, on something that few people will ever read. Find out if you’re dealing with someone who sells millions, hundreds of thousands or just a few thousand.

The top 10 rated experts in the world

Then there are those, who title themselves as a world top 10 expert, because they appear on a top 10 list from a well known magazine or website. Often, the publication is well known, but the list is simply a blog post, written by an unestablished blogger, who writes, for free, on big sites, to get their name known.

These lists are not voted for… they are just a blogger’s opinion. They are very often not endorsed by the magazine or website. It is also common to find the blogger’s friends or people they want to impress, added to these lists. This is why you often see lots of unknown people, with nothing in their background to suggest they have achieved anything, listed in those (insert well known publication) Top 10 in the world, lists. 

So, if you are thinking of hiring or taking advice from someone, because they title themselves as a top 10 listed expert, don’t. If their inclusion on that list is just one blogger’s opinion, it’s meaningless. Check them out first.

Do they really seem to be credible enough to be one of the very best in the world? Clue: Anyone using that kind of title, isn’t. The best of the best have nothing to prove. Their work and reputation speaks for itself.

In a nutshell: Titles can be extremely misleading. Using them as a decision making shortcut can lead us to make bad decisions. Take the time to check someone out, before you give them your time, attention, money or energy.

Only if who they are and what they have achieved sacks up with their title, should you consider investing in them.

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Jim Connolly

I help small business owners make massively more sales and boost their profits. To see how I can help you and your business, read this.
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