The vast majority of entrepreneurs I meet – even mom-and-pops and small-business owners who operate out of their homes – spend thousands of dollars on hiring so-called experts to advise them on how to make their businesses more successful.

Sometimes, the expert’s advice works out, the investment is recouped, and the entrepreneur is better off for consulting with a professional. Other times, the expert’s advice is either useless or wrong. The business owner has thrown thousands of dollars he can’t afford to lose down the drain, and sees no improvement in his bottom line, productivity, efficiency, or operations.

Since I am frequently on both sides of the table – I sell my services as a copywriter and I also buy lots of services for my little Internet marketing business – I have a bit of advice that might save you from this agony… and enable you to select advisors who can actually help you.

In my experience, there are three types of experts for hire: the teacher, the practitioner, and the teacher/practitioner.

Teachers are those who give training, speeches, and seminars… write books and blogs and columns… sell their expertise as consultants or coaches – but don’t actually practice what they preach.

You know the expression “Those who can do; those who can’t teach.” I don’t think it’s always true… but these teachers have never proven that they can do what they talk about. That’s because, for the most part, they’ve only taught it or advised others how to do it.

An example of a “teacher expert” is Peter Drucker. He is revered as a management guru, and writes endless books and gives speech after speech advising CEOs on how to be great managers and leaders. But by his own admission, he has never been the chief executive of any company. (Running his own consulting business does not count.)

Practitioners are those who know about a particular skill or area because, rather than writing books or articles about it, they are personally successful at it.

An example is Gary Bencivenga, who is arguably one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived. Yet until his retirement, Gary – to the best of my knowledge – never wrote a book, article, or column on marketing. Nor was he a speaker at marketing conferences.

The third type of expert, the teacher/practitioner, is an active practitioner who is also a writer, speaker, and teacher.

A good example of this is Michael Masterson, who writes best-selling books on business and entrepreneurship based on his decades of experience building and growing many successful companies. Some of the companies he has been involved with have annual sales ranging from $10 million to $100 million – and beyond.

So, which type of expert should you hire – and when?

If you are a seminar organizer or meeting planner, most of your speakers are probably teachers. That’s because speaking is how they make their living, so they actively seek these engagements. (Practitioners usually shun speaking engagements, because they are too busy making money running their companies.)

You may think hiring a professional speaker to give a professional speech makes sense. After all, you want someone who knows the topic and can communicate it in a clear, motivating, and entertaining fashion.

The problem is that the teacher’s knowledge is all theoretical – gleaned from research and observation and thinking, but not from actually doing. Therefore, the teacher thinks he knows what works… but, in reality, he is just making educated guesses.

MA, a professional speaker who also owned and operated several successful insurance agencies, once said that nobody should be a full-time speaker – because if you are not practicing what you preach, you really don’t know what you are talking about.

I agree. And so does Early to Rise! All the speakers at Early to Rise conferences are successful in the subjects they speak about. What they have learned, they know from proven experience, not academic theory or guesswork.

Yes, you can hire a teacher as your seminar presenter or keynote speaker. Many can deliver a rousing talk that gets a standing ovation. But their expertise rarely extends beyond the content of that talk. And this shallowness inevitably comes through in both their presentation and their interaction with attendees after they step down from the platform.

If you are a small-business owner, you should never hire pure teachers.

Think about it. Let’s say you want to hire someone to manage a pay-per-click ad campaign for your company. Do you really want to take advice from someone who has, over his lifetime, done fewer actual PPC ad campaigns than you have? Someone who has only written a book based on studying the PPC campaigns of others – real entrepreneurs with the guts to actually put their own money where their mouth is?

The bottom line?

Your key business advisors and vendors should, first and foremost, have long experience – and a terrific track record – in the discipline for which you seek their help. Which means they should all be practitioners or practitioner/teachers.

The advantage of practitioner/teachers over practitioners is that their information is usually organized better, because they’ve already put it together as a seminar, workshop, or book. Plus, they have an enhanced ability to clearly and efficiently explain what they do (and why).

This gives you the best of both worlds. As a client, you get the practitioner/teacher expert’s in-depth experience and authoritative knowledge. You also benefit from his ability to educate you. That way, over time, you can learn to do more and more on your own – if you are so inclined.

[Ed. Note: You can get the benefit of decades of experience in business-building and money-making by signing up for ETR’s 5 Days in July DVD Library. You’ll get proven advice on starting an Internet business from experts who’ve done it themselves..] [Talk about a Practitioner/Teacher – Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter, a successful Internet marketer, and the author of more than 70 books. Get Bob’s advice – all based on his own experience – by subscribing to his free e-zine, The Direct Response Letter. Do so today and get a free gift worth $116.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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