ArticlesFollow the leader: Avoiding bad advice in the world of business influencers

Follow the leader: Avoiding bad advice in the world of business influencers

Mentorship in the small business space is integral to success, as many entrepreneurs know. All professionals, regardless of their experience or aptitude for leadership, need credible sources of inspiration and advice to mold their careers after. However, where there is knowledge, there is money to be made, and some people will go to drastic lengths to profit without having to work.

The world of business influencers is rife with scam artists who ostentatiously offer sage advice, without which their students are assured they have no chance of making it big. The end result is wasted time and money and a serious blow to one’s credibility. One would think most entrepreneurs are above falling for these fraudsters, but a quick perusal of any “expert’s” social media accounts will reveal huge followings of disciples with near-cultish levels of faith and fanaticism.

One recent example is the slowly unraveling case of influencer Andrew Tate. Tate’s machismo-oozing social media persona and his no-nonsense takes on business and leadership captured the attention of many. However, wild claims over his own business’s alleged ties to sexual exploitation, seemingly incriminating comments and text messages, his ongoing captivity at the hands of Romanian legal authorities and his unapologetic misogynist views have ruined his credibility with the vast majority of entrepreneurs, even though he still retains an active following online. In the same vein, Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos founder and legendary scam artist, also accrued a massive following for her story of success and perseverance in a male-dominated world, only for it all to come crumbling down when it was finally proven her revolutionary blood-testing product had never existed.

The point is that businesspeople are just as susceptible to bad advice as anyone else, and many are willing to overlook misanthropic behavior from their mentors, especially if they feel their own reputation is at stake. In this article, we examine common giveaways that a potential educator is scamming their audience and discuss the qualities students should look for in a business educator.


One of the most important qualities in a mentor is their credibility, an asset consisting of many factors. Elements such as work history, testimonials from clients and professional acquaintances, their contributions to a specific field and their connections to other thought leaders can all be used as proof of their knowledge. Unfortunately, it is incredibly easy to fake any one of these credentials.

For example, say you come across a business influencer on TikTok. They seem to have reasonably sound advice, and once they plug their website, you take a look. On their page, you find a list of publications, such as The New York Times and Forbes, along with logos from brands they say are former clients. Quotes can be found in the about us section, ostensibly from former students lauding their mentor’s achievements and wisdom. Is this enough to consider subscribing?

The answer lies less in what you see and more in what their website does not show. Fraudsters aim to make money or grow their following without putting the necessary work in. Laziness is the most telling and frequent sign of a non-credible source. You can begin to identify evidence of this slothfulness by asking the following questions. Does the website contain links to published work? Are the testimonials from verifiable customers? What work do they have to show for their brand partnerships? If any of these are missing, if there is no tangible evidence to back up their claims, this is a sure sign of intentional dishonesty or gross negligence.

Authentic mentors are never afraid of showing their work. Find any truly successful entrepreneur’s website or social media handles, and their page will be flooded not just with claims but verifiable links and provable demonstrations of their business acumen. This is how one establishes the credibility of a third party: by the lengths the individual goes to showcase their work.


A hallmark of a quality mentor is their ability to break down complex subjects into simple explanations. Good educators can shift between the big picture and the small picture at will and ultimately tie the two perspectives together. Entrepreneurs can search for evidence of this skill as a way to measure the reliability of a potential business coach or advisor.

Once again, we turn to social media to provide us with an example. Say you peruse a business coach’s LinkedIn. You notice that every few days, they make some sort of post. The content of these regular uploads should be more than enough to determine their ability to demonstrate in-depth knowledge.

We all enjoy hearing inspirational platitudes once every so often, even if we know their meaning is cliche and ultimately useless. But trite observations are the exact opposite of the skill mentioned above. Again, fraudsters are lazy: they search for a balance between high profit and little work. If a business coach’s social media history is rife with easily searchable quotes, meaningless comments and only generalized takes on their industry, you can again be sure that you have discovered a scam.

On the other hand, educators who take their job seriously stay informed on their industry’s developing frontier. When something new or exciting happens, their posts quickly reflect this change as they seek to shed more light on the subject. Always prioritize thought leaders who touch on narrow concepts, and demonstrate specific knowledge over individuals who can only deliver tenuous, unrelated or ambiguous takes on their supposed specialty. If their discussions never touch on the specific, run.


This one is tricky. While many believe that the trappings of professionalism, such as the suit one wears, one’s timely attendance or even one’s tone of voice, are the real indicators of underlying credibility and intelligence. However, such characteristics are only skin-deep. The real test of a qualified mentor does not examine the external but rather the internal: the beliefs which drive their behaviors. Our tendency to hide inner traits makes it exceedingly difficult to discern between a qualified and unqualified leader.

For instance, say you discover a business coach who exudes confidence and intelligence. Their hair is pristine, their demeanor stern, their clothing intriguingly monotone and their conversation brimming with delightfully innovative concepts. Their resume is both verifiable and impressive, and their ability to grasp the nitty-gritty details in a simple way is awe-inspiring. But when you see them in their natural environment, you witness a new side to their personality. They treat their employees with disrespect, take any form of dissent as a personal affront and steal ideas without proper credit. Could they still be a worthwhile mentor?

While the business advice of such an individual may still be useful, it is important to realize that private behavior becomes less likely to stay private the more cruel or inhumane it becomes. As the saying goes, the truth will out. Take Steve Jobs, once the wet dream of corporate America but now largely ignored. What changed? Ever since his death, the stories of his abuse towards staff and questionable leadership at Apple have become more widely known. While he may have been a hero for many entrepreneurs, his fame and influence have since been so impaired by the first-hand accounts of awful behavior that few today would ever use him as a source of inspiration. As new generations become more acquainted with his antics, his popularity is only capable of diminishing.

Associating with individuals based solely on their outward professionalism exposes one to dangerous risks, especially when there exists evidence of misconduct behind the scenes. Entrepreneurs should seek mentors who conduct themselves appropriately rather than excusing or overlooking problematic traits. Going back to our idea that laziness is the greatest sign of fraud, it takes effort to be a good person. Those who fail to treat others well are perfect candidates for running scams.

Hopefully, this advice can assist you in discerning between mentors and business coaches. Avoiding scams and fraudsters is challenging work, but the extra effort can be the difference between finding your “hero” and wasting your hard-earned money. To find speakers who take their roles as educators seriously, consider searching the shows and topics covered elsewhere on ASBN!

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Colin Velez
Colin Velez
Colin Velez is a staff writer/reporter for ASBN. After obtaining his bachelor’s in Communication from Kennesaw State University in 2018, he kicked off his writing career by developing marketing and public relations material for various industries, including travel and fashion. Throughout the next four years, he developed a love for working with journalists and other content creators, and his passion eventually led him to his current position. Today, Colin writes news content and coordinates stories with auto-industry insiders and entrepreneurs throughout the U.S.

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