Nobody knows how good you are..

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Until you hand them your best selling book with your face on the cover. Expert. Author. That is credibility you can touch.

Except you didn’t really write that book, you co-authored it with a dozen other people. And you’re not really an expert, you’re a small business IT owner who paid someone thousands of dollars to round up other people who wanted to be in on the same project. But did you even write your chapter or did you just make corrections to a body of text that someone else wrote based on the interview they did with you? Does it matter that what you are promoting as a best selling book is just a matter of Amazon manipulation – as advertised by the people that put your book together? Indeed, nobody knows how good you are, until you pay into a deceptive marketing practice that misleads people into trusting you.

But does integrity really matter if nobody is being hurt? What if you have to lie a little bit if it gets you in the door where I’m sure you’ll do a great job? Should honesty play a part in business at all, after all this is business not a marriage. 

Does integrity really matter in small business?

I should note that I know all of the above as a fact because a few of my friends actually threw money into this project. I also called the company that creates these. Their explanation, in a nutshell:

“It gets the foot in the door. The content is OK and nobody is getting hurt, how is this any less legitimate than anything else that is out there?”

And you know what – I can’t really blame them. On a certain level, you gotta respect the hustle. And given that, people often ask me why I’ve become the Ralph Nader of the SMB IT shining a spotlight on the crooks and frauds that are threatening our industry? Why aren’t we getting together and pushing for more legitimacy on these things through CompTIA? I could probably write hundreds of blog posts that nobody would read on this but I’ll spare you and sum it up:

My entire job at Own Web Now / ExchangeDefender / Shockey Monkey is to help partners succeed. I spend time talking to our partners and even to people that we don’t do any business with. When you get screwed by someone and taken to the cleaners you really don’t want to advertise that and promote a blog post. Nobody likes looking like a jackass, nobody wants to admit they were stupid enough to be taken advantage of. So, friends, I’m happy to discuss it in the open.

Crooks, Thieves & Fraudsters Know This

There is no repercussion for lying and blatantly defrauding massive amounts of people in SMB IT. You just have to be really nice – that is the only requirement. Steal with a smile on your face Mr. Nice Guy. Because so long as you’re seen as a nice guy everything else can be wiped out and looked the other way. Size doesn’t matter.

You can say you’re making a strategic investment in an unrelated company that is in no way going to impact your partners. Then a few years later your API craps out, you ban people from your conference and fully integrate things end-to-end to block competition. But it’s OK, you throw a hell of a party.

You can say you’re promoting the IT industry and everyone in it. While taking big $ donations from massive IT companies and using it to lobby Washingon DC to increase H1B Visa count that does nothing but decimate IT employment in US and endangers everyone in IT. But it’s OK, you throw a hell of a party.

You can claim to be the greatest MSP coach alive before you get fired from a MSP coaching company for incompetence. The said company then goes on to defraud hundreds of people in a fake marketing scheme, goes under and has to change names 6 times and hide for years before resurfacing again. You go from coach, to CxO, to VP, to unemployed in a span of a year and then back to coaching. You are an MSP. Then you aren’t. But it’s OK because you’re all smiles, shots and beach parties and can talk sports with anyone, except people you put out of business.

You just need to be nice. Integrity and honesty are an attitude to be interpreted in a social “he’s cool” context, not a track record we can all point to.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

I brought this up on Facebook and I asked.. does integrity matter?

Without exception – everyone said yes. Integrity and honesty matter when someone is going to screw you over. But does it matter otherwise? And why the hell do I care?

One of the commenters pointed out that “…I wish I had a coach when I made some mistakes in my business…” and aside from it reeking of a lack of personal responsibility, it underscores why I am willing to take a shot when someone crosses the line: I have failed in business many times. That’s my fault. That’s on me. That doesn’t bother me, that’s work. Some you win, some you lose. But you know what I wish I had back then – a lawyer. For all those scenarios in which a much bigger business screws a much smaller one simply because they can. It takes a ton to succeed in business, to beat your competitors, to overachieve for your clients, to provide for your employees – and the last thing you need going against you is fraud. And in order for any of us to build a long term successful business in SMB IT we cannot look the other way and allow these nice guys to continue to decimate us.

So let me wrap up this meaningless post: Nothing I say or do is going to make a difference either way – I am not suing nor beating up the fraud I see out there. There are no names in this post. All I am exposing is the behavior and the patters that ought to be disturbing you.

If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others. Don’t support it. Don’t encourage it. Don’t engage in it. Otherwise, friends, there is no bottom. Take it with a grain of salt as well: I’m a multimillionaire, if all this blows up tomorrow I’m gonna be alright. If that’s not the case for you then read this post again and again until it sinks in.