I have kept something to myself for a few years now. I did so out of embarrassment and shame. I was embarrassed that I’d been suckered by the charm and enthusiasm of a business novice, someone who talked a great game and delivered pitiful results. And I was ashamed that it cost me several tens of thousands of dollars to learn a painful lesson. But I did learn. And the result is, I’ve recovered. The fact that I’m now sharing it with you means that the value of the lesson has finally exceeded its cost. Let me tell you my story.
Back in 2004, I decided it was time to take my business, The Art Of Change Skills For Life™ to a new level. I had some definite ideas about how to do so, and I looked around for people who could join me in the effort, be on my team. I was ready and willing to pay for expertise. I just needed to find the right people.
I attended a weekend seminar on business building. One of the speakers was a young woman named Sabrina G_____, (*Ed Note: Do I want to tell you her name? Yes, I do. However, I’m not a mean person, and while it might feel good to shame her by calling her out, I have no desire to harm her in sharing this with you. So we’re going to keep it to her first name and last initial, thanks for understanding!*) who claimed in her speech to have mastered social networking, reducing it to a simple system that anyone could use to duplicate her results…dramatically increasing blog traffic, product and service purchases and referrals, and building your business brand. She was charming, energetic, and spoke with great authority, like she knew exactly what she was talking about (These are early warning signs that someone knows how to be persuasive…but not that they are necessarily competent.)
After her speech, I asked her if I could just hire her rather than buying her training. I wanted to pay Sabrina to do the work for me, as I had plenty to do as it was. She said yes to the idea generally, told me she had a world class team of people working with her that could draw people to a blog, build a newsletter subscription database, market specific products and such, and we scheduled the first of several wonderful phone calls in which she introduced me to her business and the specifics of what she was going to do for me. Her business had the words profit and partners in the company name, and she promised to create a successful social networking strategy that would meet my three objectives: (1) Grow my mailing list; (2) Generate increased revenue from my products and services; and (3) build The Art Of Change© brand. After a few conversations over the phone, she presented me with a proposal that had performance benchmarks and dates, it appeared to do exactly what I needed done, and I signed a contract committing myself to paying Sabrina $10,000 a month.
For six months, January through June, I paid Sabrina as I had promised to do, and all the while she failed to deliver on a single promise, meet a single benchmark, achieve any useful result for my business. (She would likely argue about this because she did have a team that tried to help but didn’t know how, and I have all the documents and private correspondence to show that she failed to deliver, including her admission of failure and promise to make it right.)
Her team of ‘experts’ were like the Keystone Cops, or the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. The person she put in charge of managing my blog didn’t even know about permalinks (This one little thing meant my blog wouldn’t be picked up by search engines!) The person putting together a special bonus campaign for one of my information products didn’t understand the rules of grammar, didn’t have a spell check, and badly misrepresented my work and ideas in his writing. The person putting together the newsletter database used proprietary and crappy PC software that had a horrible, ugly and unfriendly interface, and locked out Mac users (ME!!!) They made amateur hour mistakes at professional prices. Dates for performance passed, with no progress. Each time I called this out, or asked Sabrina for an update, I got a litany of explanations and assurances that everything was going as planned, and that the plan was working. And each month, I sent her another big check, on time, as I had agreed to do.
Sabrina kept promising me the sun, the moon, the earth and the sky. She kept promising me ‘rock star’ outcomes. She kept promising that everything was on track and I didn’t need to worry about it.
Only none of that was true. Tune in next week for the end of the saga and lesson learned.