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Top 5 Red Flags of Business Coaches

Business coaches are everywhere it seems right now, with so many offering the moon and stars, some claiming to have some secret formula to success. And while there are some truly amazing business coaches, experts, and teachers out there, there’s I’d dare to say, a whole lot more who are over-promising, under-delivering, and even those who are flat our scamming people. That’s the reason I, myself, don’t ever claim the title of coach, because for me it has such a negative connotation due to all kinds of predatory and unethical junk I’ve seen over the last several years teaching business skills. That’s not to say the term coach is bad, it’s just a personal preference because of personal experience, so don’t come at me.

With that said, I want to give you some red flags to watch out for when you start looking at hiring a coach, taking some classes from someone, hiring a marketing firm, or designer, or anything else when it comes to paying someone to help you to grow your business in some way.

I’ve seen all kinds of massage therapists getting taken advantage of and, to put it frankly, getting royally screwed over by so-called coaches and business or marketing experts. So let’s jump into these 5 red flags to keep an eye out for. I’ll probably keep referring to these in relation to coaches, but this applies to any marketing agency, graphic designers, consultants, teachers, or anyone else you might pay to help you grow your business…

#1 Relying heavily on your FOMO, or fear of missing out

We all see the limited time offers, special pricing, and all that, and yes, it can be quite useful of a tactic to get people to make a quick purchasing decision. However, while it can be innocent and just a simple enticement, there is a line where this crosses from innocently trying to get a boost in revenue for their business and it crosses over into predatory. This is especially true the higher the cost. If someone is saying you’ll save $2,000 on some $10,000 program if you sign up right this second before you get off their discovery call or whatever, just no. That’s crossing the line. That’s a huge financial decision that should not be rushed into. And this brings me to…

#2 Advising you not to consult with anyone about this decision

Again, the higher the price, the more predatory I think this is. If a “business expert” is advising you to make a rash financial decision without consulting your own numbers, your accountant, your spouse, your partner, or anyone else that this may affect or who could provide an objective rationale for a decision…run. That’s not just predatory business behavior on their part, that’s just extremely terrible business advice. You wouldn’t go out and suddenly buy a new car without some financial analysis, talking it over with your spouse, weighing it as a good investment, and on and on. That’s just a bad financial decision. So why on earth would you drop $5,000 or $10,000 on a business coach all of a sudden without some serious analysis and thought put into it? I’m going to sincerely question anyone’s business expertise when they’re pushing rash financial decisions like that.

#3 Fake reviews and testimonials

A main note on this point is that you can fake almost anything now. There are gigs on Fiverr and the like where you can pay people to give video testimonials on products and services they’ve never once used; they’ll give fake names and credentials, testimonials and anything else, just repeating whatever you’ve written for them to say. There are coaches who force non-disclosure agreements, not to hide some proprietary knowledge, because let’s face it, no one’s really teaching anything new…it’s just repackaged business knowledge in their own format…but instead they’ll use these NDAs specifically to keep people from speaking ill of their program if they’re not satisfied. OR they’ll exchange some affiliate money or otherwise pay for their former students to record some oh-so-wonderful testimonial videos. And while that’s not necessarily faking it, it is essentially buying positive social proof instead of just building it organically, which I personally just find icky.

And there are entire programs online that you can input completely fake info and get a pretty little image of what looks like a screenshot of a Facebook review or group post or Instagram post or whatever, all saying whatever you want to put in there. Not a real person, not a real profile, not even a real group or page. Seriously. You can completely fake these things. Which is ridiculous, but it’s out there. And it’s used probably way more than you think. Here’s where it takes some digging on your part. If that person claims to have a Facebook group just for students for example, even if it’s set to private, you should be able to find it. If you’re seeing some screenshots of great experiences and testimonials grabbed from that group, look up the individuals’ names and double check that it’s a real person at the very least. Obviously some privacy settings might mean you can’t find them all, but if all of them can’t be found; that’s a little sketchy. And I’ve seen that a lot actually. And with this digging, that brings me to…

#4 A Questionable Business History

Now before anybody jumps at me, I’m not saying that someone who’s just starting out as a coach or consultant or whatever is inherently bad. No. We all start somewhere. However, when you start to really pay attention to all these ads and dig into the companies and individuals involved, you may notice that there’s a lack of steady history to the business that doesn’t really match their claims or the social proof that it looks like exists. So here’s what I mean…

If a coach is talking about the hundreds or thousands of people they’ve helped do xyz, then there should be some steady proof of this through reviews posted directly on their social pages, engagement with their social media posts, group members in either an open or student-only group, podcast reviews, YouTube views, etc. They should have been in business for more than a few months if they’re claiming to have all these great results for people. You’re not going to be able to see behind the scenes, and get a full picture, but there should be some publicly available view that can give you a sense of whether this is legit or not. If it’s a newer coach, then obviously their reviews, engagement, and results are going to be fewer and most decent ones will do a “founder’s launch” or something like that with a program, or otherwise tell you they’re fairly new to this in some way. That’s cool.

If they’re claiming to be a social media expert but their own social media pages are lackluster, it’s been months since their last posts, or they skip huge chunks of time, things like that, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere.

If they seem to rebrand every few months or every year or they’re jumping from trend to trend. You know the type…the ones who are jumping on every bandwagon, chasing entrepreneurial trends and hoping to carve out their own piece of the market without really setting a solid foundation. They’re still figuring it out; and while I’m not saying this makes them a bad business, if you’re looking for solid business advice or help or whatever, then you want someone who is solid themselves…instead of being a guinea pig for someone still figuring out what they want to do.

And lastly…

#5 Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

If they can’t take no for an answer, find somebody else. The whole DMing people constantly, cold messaging, or constantly asking you to comment on their posts if you “want 50 new clients this month” and then DMing everyone with their offer, and especially not backing off if you say you’re not interested or need to think about it, or whatever, these are red flags to me. This is especially true if you’re not seeing real value in what they present freely. I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule that 80% of your content needs to be high value and only 20% should be sales. But it seems like a lot of these coaches and such flip that and it’s at minimum 80% sales and a tiny bit of valuable info. There’s nothing wrong with pushing their program, selling their stuff (hello, that’s marketing and I’m always for that) but there comes a point where it’s way too much and the sale seems all they’re concerned with.

And sincerely, this is not some terribly veiled attempt at propping myself up. I would love it if I can help you grow your massage business, but I also know I’m not for everyone. Not everybody likes me, my content, or how I deliver it. And that’s cool. You need to find someone you do like, whose content does resonate with you, and who can give you what you’re looking for. Go find them! I just sincerely don’t want to see anybody get taken advantage of and waste their time and money, especially big money. So dig into these people, research them, and keep an eye out for these red flags.

Hey there! I'm a massage therapist, educator, writer, and business pro helping massage therapists around the world build successful businesses. My goal is to give you everything you need to start, run, and grow a profitable massage practice that supports a life you love, all without the headaches I went through learning how to do it myself.

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