High Priestesses.

Multi-level-marketing legends.

Business and lifestyle coaches.



Choose your guru wisely.

I’ve been in business for a decade, which is long enough for me to understand that when it comes to gurus, not all are made equal. In the start-up community in particular, there are plenty of lions out there looking to make a quick buck from lambs. When you’re in start-up and trying new things, it’s natural to look for Facebook Groups, communities, coaches or mentors who can offer you their knowledge and smarts. And whilst some gurus are completely legit and worth handing over your hard-won lucre to in exchange for coaching, books, seminars and the like – there are many half-baked coaches out there who will do more harm to your fledgling business than good.

Your newbie status makes you vulnerable to fangirling a little too hard and following a coach blindly – causing you to make choices that may not match your financial position or goal for your business. I’ve seen plenty of hacks in both the real and digital world peddle their wares with some success – so before you drink their Kool-Aid , here’s my checklist:

Signs You’ve Got a Bad Guru On Your Hands

At a BNI meeting I went to regularly, someone introduced themselves as an expert photographer, leading HR consultant and SEO master. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that someone who purports to be a leader in multiple, unrelated disciplines is unlikely to be as masterful as their business card suggests. It’s true that we’re all kinda slashies – I do more than social media strategy and copywriting – but real gurus know their strengths and stick to them. Beware the ultra-long LinkedIn profile with endless unrelated slashi-ness: it’s no good.

Mean Girls
Sometimes crank gurus have powerful communities supporting them online, and well-populated Facebook Groups rife with slavering fangirls and fanboys aching for the attention of their dear leader. If you’re part of a coaching or business group where there’s lots of rules, bickering, slavering for attention and in-fighting in an attempt to win the approval of the ‘Head Girl’ – move on. They have already taught you their lesson: don’t be a douche. You can be successful in business without fomenting communities of competition and hate in your name.

Faux Followers
Legitimacy as a coach or mentor ain’t all in the numbers. It’s all too easy to buy tens of thousands of followers on social media platforms these days – so don’t choose your prospective coach or guru based on their numbers alone. Look to the images or content they post – if their interaction is limited to bots with comments like ‘Such wow, love your content!’ – odds on they’ve purchased their social media following. Genuine interaction from a coach or business leader’s audience is a better gauge of their expertise and value to you – even if follower numbers are low.

Unrealistic Promises
‘Become a life coach in two weeks and earn six figures in your first year!’ ‘Freedom and lifestyle are yours when you sell these oils!’ ‘We guarantee triple your investment in marketing!’ ‘Go from zero – 10,000 followers in a month!’

If a business, coach or individual is making promises that seem to good to be true …. it’s probably because they’re too good to be true. Experts will never make ridiculous promises. Charlatans who want your cash and don’t care about your disappointment will promise you the world. It pays to be skeptical.

Inspo, Not Edu
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of inspo. But if your coach’s website, social media feed or Facebook Group is full of nothing but meaningless inspo, it’s not going to take you where you need to go for success. No matter how pretty an Insta-grid might seem – if it’s just a collation of recycled quotes, copyright infringement and inspo – they’re not producing original content, and may subsequently not be expert.

Poor Quality Social
A business or identity suggesting that they are the best in their field with decades of experience? Check the quality of their social media and website. If they’re as senior as they purport to be, their digital storefront will be packed with information, testimonials and resources. They’ll have invested in this aspect of their identity because they’ve got the resources they’ve won from years of successful coaching and business. Be cautious if their website looks untouched and full of stock photos and poxy headshots.

Too Much Hustle
Methinks doth do protest too much! Many coaches or entrepreneurs fill their socials with content that’s about hustle, winning business, boss lyf etc. A bit of this kind of posturing is all in good fun – but runs on the board and being in practice matter more. Look for other signifiers of their success like journal articles, blogs, vlogs, testimonials, workshops and speaking appointments. Remember that lots of activity – too much hustle – doesn’t mean actual expertise.

Lack of Qualifications
Qualifications don’t mean everything. But you wouldn’t go to a psychologist or a doctor if they weren’t qualified, would you? Before you fork out big dollars on a course or coach, just double-check on their credos. There’s plenty of short-courses that churn out graduates in the coaching category swiftly, so be cautious.

Digital Ghosts
No digital footprint at all? Yet they purport to be web design experts or marketing legends? It happens. More regularly than you might expect! Whilst some business people keep their profiles super low because they’re so highly in demand – that’s fairly rare. Be cautious of the digital ghost guru.

Images: Breeana Dunbar Photography